Pawsox to Provsox

There are a number of reasons why moving the Pawsox from Pawtucket to Providence is pretty numb, and there are numerous reasons why people have a right to be unhappy at this transaction. But even more astonishing is how anyone among the new owners, especially those involved in any way in the policy discussions on economic development in Rhode Island, could see the !-195 lands as an appropriate place for a baseball stadium.

For years RI leadership has been touting the I-195 lands as the economic savior of Providence with all the potential of the “Knowledge District approach to economic development”. How in hell could they acquiesce to the use of these lands for a baseball stadium and its attendant parking lots.

I have a long track record of stating that the medical industrial economy is not a good foundation upon which to build an economy. Betting your economy on the leading cause of bankruptcy in the country seems a strange strategy and there is no doubt the medical industrial complex has played a big role in growing inequality in the American economy. My warnings about the expectations of growth from the medical industrial economy have been ignored and the bandwagon for high tech medicine continued. But now we have a proposal to throw that all away for a baseball stadium despite overwhelming evidence that sports arenas do not really help downtowns and create few family supporting jobs.

If the politicians go for the stadium, I almost hate to say it, it will prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that even politicians have realized that the medical industrial economy is not going to do what they have been saying it would do all these years and it is time to give up. But i will say that giving up on the medical industrial economy can be done without doing anything as astronomically dumb as building a baseball stadium and parking lots. I sure hope the RI politicians will hold out for a better use of the I-195 lands than to sign it away to the lords of baseball.

From the Bottom Up, Regulations and Economic Development

The mantra says if you lower taxes and reduce regulations the invisible hand of the market will bring you prosperity and perpetual growth. The facts do not bear this out.

The reality is closer to if you lower taxes on the rich and reduce regulations on polluters the few who are already rich will benefit while the rest of the community will be harmed and poorer. The underlying assumption of the already wealthy is that economic development policy should be geared towards making them wealthier with trickle down carrying benefits to the larger community. The results have been 99% of the growth in income going to 1% of the population while 60% of Americans are getting poorer. In low income neighborhoods, economic development that actually reduces poverty and benefits communities is a bottom up process. The use of assets to generate wealth must place the overwhelming majority of the benefits in the hands of the poorest members of the community if poverty is to be reduced. This is why gentrification and real estate driven development is so problematic. The benefits flow out of the community into the hands of “developers”. We merely displace the poor to another spot. This process mirrors almost exactly what is happening to tropical forest communities as their economies change. When the community gets secure tenure to the forest, everyone benefits. When the forest is no longer locally controlled, it disappears, the children get hungry, and those people who do not die move to shanty towns. Until brownfields are turned into assets that directly benefit the people already living in the neighborhood poverty can be shifted to another location, but it will not be eliminated.

On the regulatory issue, everyone agrees that the process should be efficient, fair, transparent and reasonably swift. The problem is that as the government and its prodders seek to streamline the process they also seek to reduce the quality of protections for the public, AND they seek to cut the public out of the process. If you remember the bottom up approach from the previous paragraph, then you know that cutting the community out of the process of seeing if a particular project is appropriate for the community almost guarantees failure, and in Rhode Island, almost guarantees inside dealings. As we streamline the permitting process it is critical to our success as a state to make it easier for communities to intervene at the appropriate times and places and to stop bad projects.

History tells us that when the wealthy are allowed to do as they please, it almost always comes to a bad end. We all know how bad 38 Studios turned out for the people of Rhode Island, and we also know that public hearings would have shown the politicos the folly of the project. We need to remember that the flip side of this is the public involvement that helped stop the building of a container port in Quonset, much to the chagrin of the governor, the legislature, and the growth obsessives. The public outcry, sustained over an 18 month period, prevented a one billion dollar debacle that the taxpayers would still be paying off.

In our neighborhoods, as the greening of the economy becomes ever more important and critical for our prosperity, to streamline the regulatory process to the point where the public is streamlined right out of the picture means that truly inappropriate buildings will get built in truly inappropriate places. The long term economic benefits will disappear when in our haste to give out permits we create floods that could have been prevented.

You can not end poverty without healing ecosystems, you can not heal ecosystems without ending poverty, and if Rhode Island wants prosperity we need to stop genuflecting to those who demand that we help them line their pockets through less regulation and lower taxes.

Economic Growth in Rhode Island

To the Editor,
The article “Economy grows despite weakness” in the February 18, 2015 Projo reported that the economic growth rate in Rhode Island was lower in the 4th quarter, 1.8% compared to 2.4% in the third quarter, and lower than was anticipated. Rhode Island’s economy is growing slower than the global average, the national average and the regional average. John Simmons comment ”trending lower… is a sign that the state economy has inherent weakness” seems to be in line with the sentiments of Rhode Island’ political leadership.

Simmons, and the rest of the business climate obsessives keep thinking they can pump up the growth rate by becoming “business friendly”, but any honest assessment of our growth potential will conclude that Rhode Island is going to be one of the places with a slower economic growth rate.

Instead of obsessing about a faster growth rate, the people of Rhode Island might be better served by a government that seeks a greater and more widespread prosperity in a low growth environment via ecological helping and economic justice.

Rapid growth will occur only in places that have the right conditions: New natural resource exploitation industries like fracking, rapidly expanding newly industrializing cities growing as rural people are driven off the land, or megacities with large financial sectors. Half the world will have growth that is below average. The sooner we learn to accept our low growth rate and create public policy that creates prosperity in our communities even under conditions of low growth, the better.
Greg Gerritt
Providence RI


Response to sustainable wood for instruments release

Glad the musicians are finally getting this. The current deforestation phase is only the continuation of 500 years of colonialism, standing on 10,000 years of urbanism. Stealing the resources of the forest is the only way empires and cities grow. The reality of climate change is just making it hip, but we have long known that leaving the forest in the hands of the forest people is much better for the forest and the world.

Musicians understand intellectual property and how the corporates screw them using the laws. It is completely analogous to what is happening to forest people.Outsiders with connections getting rich by stealing their forest. It is also how economic development works in brownfield communities where the benefits of development never ends up in the hands of the people who live there, they just get displaced again.

walking in a winter wonderland

I love being out in the snow. Hate being cold and wet. But once I learned how to dress, being out in the snow became a true joy. My favorite activity used to be cutting firewood in a low wind snowfall in the north woods. Hauling it home on the sled. Watching the big flakes

Instead of the woods and country roads I now walk Providence, and while I still love snow, walking is more difficult here, and most definitely more dangerous.

I love walking my neighborhood, on 6th St the block is shoveled from top to bottom including the corners, and most residential streets are well shoveled, with many people even creating places to cross at the corners. The North Burial Ground is also a treat. Might be plowed better than anywhere else in the city, and if you take the back streets, you can almost avoid North Main St. while getting there.

North Main St has never been a great place for winter walking. From 6th St going south on the east side of the street the block between 4th and 5th as usual took a bit longer than they should have to clear some hazards and the corner is still bad. I made a call to city hall about N Main St yesterday asking that they do some enforcement among the scofflaws, so that could have made a difference at some of the places on N Main getting it together late yesterday and today, but I will never know. I have now requested that Miriam and Home and Hospice clear their sidewalks, and the crew from the Burial Ground was snow blowing that stretch of N Main St. I had been cutting through the burial ground instead of using the sidewalk, now I can go back to the sidewalk. I did not go as far as Branch this morning, but as of Thursday that intersection was still not pedestrian friendly. The highway overpass on Industrial is always neglected from a pedestrian perspective, though the mini-mall just to the north had shoveled their sidewalk, a most unusual occurrence. The areas near University Shopping Mall is a disgrace. A BIG RI mall developer, CARPIONATO, ALWAYS LEAVES THEIR N MAIN SIDEWALK UNSHOVELED, Yes, it is a poorly designed sidewalk, and there is no place to put the snow, but that stretch of N Main is critical to connectivity and that stretch needs to be kept passable ALL winter. There are ways to do it. Charles and Canal were difficult near the river. River frontage with no building is considered no man’s land for shoveling, despite the fact that these spots are key transportation corridors for all transportation modes from canals, to trains to interstates, to traditional walking paths, to Rt 1. It is clearly the city’s responsibility for clearing overpasses and river frontage like Canal St. and it is one they totally neglect.

Downtown, the Downtown Improvement Program, funded by special levies, clears the sidewalks. Always passable. Heading out Broad St the I-95 crossing was hard walking or in the street walking and south of the 3 High Schools the fast food area created one of the most dangerous hazards to pedestrians, the driveway plowing that blocks the sidewalk. This is one I really do not get. Or rather get and am disgusted by it. A fast food or convenience store shows parking lot to the street. Plows its driveway and parking lot, piles the snow on the sidewalk between the driveways and at the edge of the property. Never clear their own sidewalk. One year I did an action on a convenience store. I shoveled the snow piled up on the sidewalk into their driveway. An hour later they had shoveled their sidewalk.

How hard could it be for these businesses having their contractor clearing the driveway do the sidewalk or at least not block the sidewalk any worse than it already is? Maybe they need a sidewalk contractor? But mostly it would mean paying attention.

I have not yet been south of my office on Rice St, so I can not say what is to the south, but experience shows that buildings in distress, buildings for sale, buildings with absentee landlords and weak management leave gaps in the shoveling, the corners will be difficult, and driveway plowers will block sidewalks leaving pedestrians in dead ends with knew deep snow and 6 ft mounds to cross.

Maybe it is a pipedream, but given the state of the world, cities are going to have to become more pedestrian friendly all year round. Maybe we shall know we have achieved climate resilience nirvana when after a snowstorm it is just as easy to walk around the city as to use any other means of transport. The current model of making someone a second class citizen for having a lower carbon footprint does not seem like a good strategy to me.

war and peace

To the editor,

The op-ed in January 23rd’s Providence Journal entitled “US, French foreign policy invites terrorism” is probably the most intelligent and accurate description of what is going on in the world that I have read in the Providence Journal in years. Though a teenager, Raymond Mancini demonstrates a better historical perspective and understanding of human nature and justice than any of the public officials making policy in Washington DC today.

You would think that Senator Reed, with his years of military service and years of service on the military oriented committees of the Senate would have figured out what Mr. Mancini has figured out, but Senator Reed and the rest of RI’s congressional delegation keep voting money for policies that keep blowing back on America and its allies.

If we keep bombing weddings, if we keep invading countries, if we keep military bases in over 100 countries, and reserve the right to kill, maim, and torture anyone we want we shall have frustrated people to stop Americans from invading their countries by all available means. The way to peace is not war, it is the withdrawal of American military personnel from the Middle East. That a teenager knows this better than any member of Congress, better than the President, and better than any member of the bureaucracy tells us we are in for some very hard times. At least until the generation of Raymond Mancini stops the stupid wars and ends the American torture machine.

Speaker Mattiello under a cloud.

Recently I saw an op ed in the paper that tells me I am not the only person questioning whether the current Speaker of the House, Nicholas Mattiello, is the right man for the job. One of the leaders of the Progressive Democrats of RI concluded that the policy prescriptions of the Speaker are seriously out of alignment with the Democratic Party and the people of Rhode Island. That the Speaker sells his own party down the river is of no concern to me, I expect such shenanigans, but the policy prescriptions that the Speaker offers are seriously out of whack. Likely to make the economic problems worse in Rhode Island rather than alleviate them.

My special concern is issues along the ecology/economy interface and the economic development of low income communities, and I will come back to why the Speaker’s economic policy prescriptions will be ineffective due to ignoring ecological healing and economic justice another day, but today I want to point out one more problem the Speaker will bring to Rhode Island.
Given the recent history of RI Speaker’s of the House leaving office under a cloud, I am guessing that there is something inherent in the position and the men seeking it that causes the men seeking to be Speaker to be ethically challenged. The competition is so cut throat, especially in the scramble to fill the position when the Speaker leaves under a cloud, that anyone with a shred of ethics has no chance. The least qualified to lead therefore get the job.

The temptations these ethically challenged people have once they assume the mantle of speaker of the House in Rhode Island overwhelm them, especially when so much of their focus is the 100 year struggle to fix the Rhode Island economy, a post industrial economy centered on a mid size city in an age of mega cities.

Because of the sluggish economy in Rhode Island the obsession with economic development leads us to confuse real estate speculation with actual economic development. This belief that real estate speculation is economic development seems to have a particularly nasty twist when it comes to Speakers of the RI House as many of the recent occupants of the hot seat come to it from an occupational history as lawyers involved in the business of real estate transactions.

There are a number of problems with this beyond skewing the Speaker’s understanding of economic development in the 21st Century. The first and foremost is that real estate speculation in old industrial places like Rhode Island is not in any way a capitalist enterprise. Nearly all development except the spreading of sprawl into the exurbs happens with subsidies from the public.

Picture it. Most powerful man in RI, sets policy, directs investment, signs off on subsidies. He comes to the office already immersed in the real estate industry, including its use of subsidies and desire to drain every wetland. An industry that is already a huge source of money for state and local elections (mostly because of its need for subsidies), and the basic source of corruption in our communities. The Speaker of the House is right in the center of the fetid swamp enjoying the water.

As far as I know Speaker Mattiello is not currently under investigation and there is no word of his being involved in any corrupt dealings other than selling out the people of Rhode Island, which seems to be legal. But the combination of real estate oriented lawyer Speakers and the need for subsidies in the industry is so powerful that I am not asking if Speaker Mattiello will eventually have to leave under a cloud, only when. In the mean time we shall be subject to horrible and ineffective policy due to the anti regulatory, anti community, pro inequality memes that have already infested his brain due to his day job.

nibbling around the edges

We live in a time of great happenings.  War, revolution, climate change, food insecurity, space flights, modern medicine, and the internet.  Events are pulling communities in a multitude of directions simultaneously.  In a billion small ways the people of the Earth are rising to the challenges of our times, but our large institutions, the places where power accumulates, have done almost nothing of value for many years.  The large institutions, the domains of the rich and powerful, have regularly made crisies worse and contributed very little towards solutions.  The systems in which the few govern the many are failing.  Our communities demand more action than just the nibbling around the edges that our powerful institiuons will do as a way to pretend they care.  Nibbling around the edges is an excuse for not doing anything useful and an effort to pull wool over our eyes.  Nibbling around the edges will not solve the climate crisis.


it is time to root out corporatism, racism, and the fossil fuel and war industries from our communities.     Praise to the activists in New York who just threw a big monkey wrench into the fracking machine.  It is when we actually practice democracy that we shall rise to the great challenges of our time.

The US as a rogue nation

It seems like everyone on the planet is sick of the stupid games that the American Government plays.  A nation steeped in genocide and slavery and the violence necessary to keep such a stupid game going has created a domestic politics that makes useful engagement with everyone else on the planet nearly impossible.

Torture and climate change probably lead the list of American missteps, but policies around nuclear weapons, healthcare, privacy, destroying villages in order to save them, racism, trade and aid policies that are welfare for wealthy American lobbyists/campaign contributors, the world’s largest arms industry, spying on everyone, killing for oil, propping up dictators, arming Israel, and helping US banks and the financial industry loot the world also rank pretty high on the list of stupid things done by the American government, that currently leave Washington DC heads spinning as the US faces the global resistance to American madness.

Killing for peace is not working. The empire is bankrupting us and has not made us any safer.  Unfortunately in the US the domestic politics of failure in military adventurism results in ever greater violence and lunacy on the part of the rich and religious fundamentalists, further feeding the rolling disaster.  The militarization of American police forces, matching the violence blasted from American weapons around the world can not bring us to healthy communities.

Unfortunately for the American ruling class and fundamentalists just as drone warfare is getting us nowhere in Asia,  police violence backfiring here as well.  And on that hopeful note I bid you good day.


Speaker Mattiello is wrong again

To the Editor,

I have followed the RhodeMap RI process pretty carefully, including going to many hearings and submitting extensive written comments. I do not think the plan adequately addresses economic inequality, food security or climate change, but it is by far better than most RI state planning documents.

When RI House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello voiced his opposition to the plan, joining with the Tea Party, the Koch brother funded American Legislative Exchange Council, and their puppet, the RI Center for Freedom and Prosperity, Speaker Mattiello demonstrated a complete lack of understanding of how racism, economic inequality, and climate change are harming Rhode Island, and specifically harming our economy.

As long as the Democrats on Smith Hill continue to support Representative Mattiello as speaker Rhode Island is going to be in for some very hard times.

Greg Gerritt


Analyzing the headlines on December 2 2014

This morning’s headlines in the Providence Journal were so inspirational.  Here is my reaction to a few.  greg

“I-195 deal hinges on tax breaks”

How these developers can honestly call themselves capitalists is beyond me.  How dare the rich ask for tax breaks.  Hypocrites.  But even more it is an indictment of the system.  That land can not be redeveloped without assistance calls into question the whole system.  it calls into question the need for ever higher real estate values to fuel the economy, and makes very clear that higher real estate values are a big problem for our communities not the solution.  We need to use that land for food production and understand that demanding ever higher prices each time land turns over is crazy.


“Passenger traffic on descent at Green”

This has been going on for 8 years or so, and will continue.  What makes it so interesting is that while traffic at Green goes down (maybe because I have given up flying?) the state keeps spending more money there. Ridership on RIPTA is continuing to soar. We did a bit last year finally, but getting money for public transit is very tough.  I guess poor folks do not count.  The rich ride airplanes, so Green gets money, while the folks ride buses so we can under invest there.

“Obama wants cameras on 50000 police”

It is the violence by the government, at all levels of government in the United States, that drives the violence in our communities.  We are a nation founded on genocide and slavery.  Killing the poor and people who are others has always been the way of the rich and the white.  If we want to stop violence in  the streets, cameras on cops is not enough.  You might have to disarm them and send them home.

“Seeking housing not shelters”

We have known for years that housing helps people deal with all their other stuff, and saves us a ton of money in other services, but we continue to underfund housing, which helped the banks pull off the bubble we bailed them out on as well as increasing individual crises.  The rent is too damn high for the wages paid in america.  For 200 years the US government helped the poor create housing or provided some.  The rich decided they could steal better if the government stopped competing with them or helping the poor, so they ran a 50 years campaign against funding for housing.    it worked, homelessness is out of control and the banks are still abusing us.


“Limited pool of contenders”

They are having a hard time finding a new Secretary of Defense.  The fact that we have lost every war we have fought with the exception of Grenada in the last 50 years means that anyone with a brain would not want the job since we seem to have a Washington elite that can not keep sticking its foot in  it.    As noted above, cameras on cops is not enough.  This country needs to close the Pentagon and spend most of that money doing things like building housing and transforming our energy,transportation, and food systems. I guarantee our streets would get calmer. We could also stop killing for oil which might help with the next item.

“New limits heat up UN talks in Lima”

it is so ridiculous that the people of the planet have been prevented from stopping climate change by the criminals who run fossil fuel businesses, pay off politicians, and use the US government to protect their pipelines.   Citizens United is a near death sentence for democracy and the money interests are looking for the short term reward figuring the rest of us will pay the piper with our treasures and our lives.  We need to stop burning fossil fuels, go totally green, and shrink the economy to a size that fits on the planet better.  If we practice equality, and disarm the rich so they do not steal again, there is enough for all the people  and the wild things.  We are losing the wild things, 50% since 1970, and losing our ability to live on the planet.  Lima is a place to stop the madness, though I have my doubts that that is even on the agenda.


Rhode Island economic summit comments November 2014

Inside the November 26 Providence Journal is a headline “Raimondo to hold “summit’ on the economy”. The article goes on to report on the Rhode Island jobs crisis and how convening the same people who got us into this mess will provide the solution. Sorry, but if you have seen one press release on an economic summit, you have seen them all.

The “leaders” Governor elect Raimondo will convene have been convened before and will offer up the same old tired solutions. The will tell us to reduce taxes, loosen regulations, and support meds, eds, real estate speculation, and entrepreneurship. We have heard this before, and it has not worked yet.

The reason it has not worked is not that we do not follow the prescription despite what the “leaders will tell us. Rather it is does not work because it is the wrong reading of the economy and where it will go on the trip to prosperity for Rhode Islanders. Making it easier to build in wetlands simply floods the towns downstream.

In order to bring prosperity to Rhode Island communities development must be focused on ecological healing and economic justice. You can not separate these concepts, but for clarity, lets start with economic justice. Economic development is not a top down process. It is a bottom up process that must be done in ways that communities are comfortable with. Communities have the right to say no to inappropriate projects, and we must remember how many boondoggles have been foisted upon Rhode Islanders when they are not consulted, and how often we have saved the state’s bacon when we have risen up and demanded to be consulted.

The second part of justice is that inequality in the economy is one of the things that weighs us down. It is only when the bottom 50% are doing well that the community thrives. The World Bank has found that in low income communities, the removal of community assets by the rich contributes to impoverishment. Gentrification does not help our communities, it is just another form of deportation.

As for ecological healing, climate change is changing everything. Clean energy is on everyone’s agenda, and it should be, but we need to focus even more attention on food security. Even the Pentagon knows that droughts in key agricultural areas are sending upheavals around the planet. The Arab Spring was sparked when grain shortages due to drought and fires in Russia sent prices through the roof. We may think police murdering youth gets people out in the streets, but when people can not feed their children, governments fall.

The California drought is going to mean food insecurity for many Rhode Islanders and real hunger for some. A way to combine ecological healing, climate mitigation, and economic justice is to help Rhode Island grow 20 times as much food as it does now. Build soil carbon, create jobs, feed the hungry, build our resilience.

Governor elect Raimondo ought to listen to someone other than the same old voices telling her things that do not work. Instead of the usual crowd, leave half of them home and fill the other half of the room with people focused on ecological healing, climate change, organic agriculture and food security. That discussion would be a lot more interesting and much more likely to find solutions.

Greg Gerritt

An open letter to Governor Lincoln Chafee November 2014

Dear Governor Chafee,

This is a letter that will be made public. You should know that as you read it.

I doubt that you have been really pleased with the performance of the Rhode Island economy during your term. I do not think anyone has been all that pleased.

You probably do not remember the meeting we had in the spring of 2010 when you were running for governor. I explained where I thought the economy was going and why. You looked absolutely frightened by what I told you and were in no mood to even consider that I might have been correct in my understanding of what Rhode Island faced. You were going to stick by the traditional grow the economy standbys despite the fact that they were designed for a vastly different economy than we face.

I know much more than I did 4 years ago, and have watched the Rhode Island economy continue to struggle. My regret is that if you had been willing to understand what RI faced you could have devised a much better strategy and RI would be a more prosperous place than it is now.

What I told you was that the RI economy was not going to grow much and that we needed to be smart about how to shrink it rather than thrash around for growth. You have given yourself over to the business climate fanatics with the growth plans that no longer work if they ever did. The data is rather clear. You should read the report from Kansas Inc, the Kansas version of the RI Commerce Corporation.

Business climate is a meaningless concept created by the pr firms that told us tobacco does not cause cancer and that there is no climate change, or if there is climate change it is not man made. You know better about the climate, even if you have done much too little to help RI prepare for climate change rolling disasters such as the drought in California threatening the food supply. But you have swallowed hook, line, and sinker that if we did what the business climate maniacs want us to do, then growth would follow. You followed the party line. There are still fewer jobs than 6 years ago. The reason RI lags the national job growth averages are inherent in old post industrial places with few fossil fuel and hard metal resources in a world in which resources are limited, sinks are failing, and what growth there is needs to end up in the hands of the poorest, not the richest, if communities are to thrive. There is nothing in the prescriptions offered by the business climate quacks that address our situation. The increases in inequality that cutting taxes on the rich and speeding up destruction of ecosystems brings in an era of job shrinkage due to computers are part of the problem, not the solution.

I also want us to push back the drum beat on regulatory reform and how regulations are supposed to be holding us back. Beyond the simple minded attack on the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act that underlies all of the anti regulatory fervor in America we have to remember how often it is the citizens of RI uniting to stop BAD projects that were presented to us as economic nirvanas that have prevented ever greater disasters. You know quite well that if Rhode Island had had a full open discussion of 38 Studios we would not be out $100 million. You might also want to remember that if the public had been shut out and the Mega port at Quonset had been built, it would have opened just as the global economy tanked and cost us $1 billion.

The point you never made, and should have, is that if we are to make permitting easier, everyone wants simple easy to read and fill out forms, we need to make it easier for communities to defend themselves as well. Easy permitting can not be an attack on the environment or our health and safety if it is to actually help our communities achieve prosperity. We have to remember how to subtract as well as add when pondering the economy we want.

You are not the only elected official I have had this conversation with. Several years ago I sat with Speaker Fox and Leader (now Speaker) Mattiello and told them what I knew that day. I did not get the impression that Speaker Mattiello could remove his ideological blinders about the role of ecology and justice in prosperity any better than you. His public statements do not give me much hope.

I helped organize a meeting between Governor elect Raimondo and a number of the leading environmental thinkers in our state about a year ago. Several of us made the point on the importance of ecology and justice in prosperity in an age of shrinking economies in the old industrial west. The next Governor wanted to talk about storm water and solar power, but needs to continue to evolve on Full Cost Accounting, the need for the public to be fully engaged in decisions about economic development in the community, and how climate change changes everything. Food Security may just be the best lens for examining economic development policy under the circumstances.

I had a similar conversation with Mayor Elect Elorza when his campaign was beginning. I hope he remembers that Providence needs to grow 20 times as much food as it is now and that this is a key to our future economy. And using real estate speculation as a stand in for actual economic development in a city that already is too expensive to live in only serves the rich.

I expect you will do some very interesting things once you leave office. I think your best work may be ahead of you. And we all know there is much to do.

Greg Gerritt

Buy Nothing Day 2014 Essay

I write this on World Food Day. Ken Payne’s op ed in the ProJo today recounts for us how many Rhode Islanders are food insecure and the potential for employment if we grew more food here. Growing food is also building resilience as the climate changes. Think about vegetable prices if California’s Drought continues. For the skeptics and the deniers, the last 12 months, October 2013 to September 2014, is the warmest 12 month stretch in modern history.

I write this as I prepare to testify on October 27 at the public hearing on the Draft RI State Economic Development Plan, a plan guaranteed to sit on a shelf because it is a plan for a Rhode Island in another dimension, not the one we live in. Laa dee dah, we will grow the economy using the same strategy that has failed for more than 40 years, put more money in the hands of the speculators. More funny money, fewer jobs. Climate change denial is funded by the hydrocarbon industry and carried out by the same PR firms that told us smoking tobacco does not cause cancer. And the same paid liars tell Rhode Island to give more away to the rich. My officially submitted comments are found here

Even as it warms, Polar Vortexes like last winters the result of global warming, not a refutation, the growing divides in our society as we slip towards empire and oligarchy mean that more people who can not afford winter coats need them. The statistic that the economic growth rates in RI from 1979 to 2010 tracked at exactly the national average while employment grew well below the national growth rate tells us that RI’s policies favor the wealthy way too much already. But in the ways of the wealthy, those who always talk of private enterprise creating jobs seem to always have their hand out for a subsidy, 38 Studios just the latest example. And we face constant pressure to undo the rules that protect the community includng what might be the most useful law the US ever passed, the Clean Water Act. Think of Watefire without clean water, or rather lets not. I remember what the rivers of New England used to smell like.

One way to turn this economy around is to have more democracy in it, not less. If communities were consulted more about what their communities need, if they could actually direct investment in the communities to the right places, if it was easier for communities to stop BAD projects, projects that poison communities or create flooding, then a lot more of the investment would go where it actually does us some good rather than filling just a few pockets. Some how the public private partnerships that we hear so much about end up as public cost and private profit, and only economic democracy along with a stronger political democracy is going to solve the problems of poverty, hunger, and climate change. As Ken Payne pointed out, growing more food in Rhode Island, in ways that heal the soil, is exactly what Rhode Island needs.

Christmas shopping will not ever save the economy. Retail therapy is what we do as communities break down. So throughout November people all over Rhode Island are collecting winter coats, and on November 28, for the 18th time, winter coats shall be given out to anyone who needs one at more than 10 locations in Rhode Island from South County to the Blackstone Valley and Newport. Each event is organized and managed locally. The people who get these emails, all 1500 of you, deserve much credit as you make it happen.

After 18 years the event remains the same, if a little bigger. If you need a coat, come get one. If you can donate a coat, please do. And on November 28 join Rhode Islanders from all walks and stations of life as we swap closet space and winter coats and make all of us happier.

2014 Buy Nothing Day Rhode Island sites

Rhode Island Buy Nothing Day Winter Coat Exchange

Buy Nothing Day the international day to point out how consumerism is destroying our planet and our communities. We collect and give away winter coats to give back to the community while pointing out how consumerism is a dead end

Friday November 28, 2014

Providence:   State House Lawn   brick patio across from the mall 

Collection and give away   Friday November 28 9 AM to 1 PM

Rain location  Gloria Dei Lutheran Church  15 Hayes Street  Providence

Contacts Greg Gerritt: 331-0529;;

Phil Edmonds: 461-3683;


Pawtucket :  175 Main St   Blackstone Valley Visitors Center

Coats accepted at the Blackstone Valley Visitors Center and many other locations in Pawtucket  all through November during business hours.

Collection at November Winters Farmers Markets Wednesday evening and Saturday morning at Hope Artiste Village

Coats given away Friday  Nov. 28  10AM  -2PM

Contact  Arthur Pitt ; 401-369-1918

Cumberland   St. Patrick’s Church lawn   301 Broad Street, Cumberland, RI 02864

Friday, November 28, 2014   9am- 11am

For more information or to donate coats, contact Molly Cabatingan at (401) 334-9639 or at


East Providence   Bridgepoint    850 Waterman Ave

Coats collected and given away Friday November 28  9 AM to 1 PM 

Coats collected throughout November at various locations in East Providence and Seekonk including the Newman YMCA.

Contact  David or Lisa Spencer

401- 965-9099


Newport  St Paul’s Church 12 West Marlborough St.

Coats collected and given away Novewmber 28 10 AM to Noon

Contact   Reverend Johanne Dame 401-846-0966

Coats also available at other church events


Wakefield –St. Francis Church, 114 High Street,

Coats Collected and given away November 28 10AM to noon

Contact   Tom Abbott   401-364-0778


Warwick Woodbury Union Church, in Conimicut Village, 58 Beach Avenue on November 28th from 10am to 12 noon.

Good condition winter coats, jackets, vests, gloves, mittens, and scarves. Church phone number 401-737-8232. E-mail contact:


Greater Providence YMCA sites

All sites collecting coats throughout November    Most sites distributing Coats on November 28   9 AM to 1 PM

East Side/Mount Hope

Drop off coats throughout November   Not a distribution site Coats distributed via the Providence site

Contact        Christy Clausen
Welcome Center Director

East Side/Mount Hope

438 Hope Street

Providence, RI 02906

Drop off


Providence Youth Services (640 Broad Street, Providence)

Drop off coats throughout November   Not a distribution site

Coats distributed via the Providence site

Christy Clausen
Welcome Center Director

East Side/Mount Hope

438 Hope Street

Providence, RI 02906

Drop off



West Bay Family YMCA Branch

Collection and distribution site Distribution Friday November 28

Contact   Kaitlyn Rooney

Welcome Center Director

West Bay Family YMCA Branch

7540 Post Road

North Kingstown, RI 02852

Drop off and Pick up site



Cranston YMCA

Collection and distribution site   Distribution Friday November 28

Contact       Andrea Champagne

Senior Director

Cranston YMCA

1225 Park Avenue

Cranston, RI 02910

Drop off and pick up site





Bayside YMCA

Collection and distribution site   Distribution Friday November 28


Sandra Carney

Welcome Center Director

Bayside YMCA

70 West Street

Barrington, RI 02806

Drop off and pick up site



Kent County YMCA

Collection and distribution site Distribution Friday November 28


Patricia Driscoll

Welcome Center Director

Kent County YMCA

900 Centerville, Road

Warwick, RI 02886

Drop off and pick up site




Newman YMCA (Seekonk, MA)

Collection of coats only   Distribution via East Providence site

Paula Roy

Welcome Center Director

Newman YMCA

472 Taunton Avenue

Seekonk, MA 02771

Drop off site




eels eat menhaden

Friday afternoon as I was walking home I looked down into the lower Moshassuck and saw an eel grab a menhaden and take it under a rock to eat it.  The tide was dropping and at the riffle between pools the schools of menhaden did not want to travel through, though they could have swam it.  Right where they were milling around the eel struck.  Just prior to that I had seen a small predator, 7 or so inches, probably a bluefish, grab a menhaden by coming up o9n a school from behind and nabbing one.  Quite the predator day on the mighty Mo.

Tropical forests, Brownfields, and the RI economy

Tropical forests, Brownfields, and the RI economy       Greg Gerritt   9/11/14


Everyone agrees, The Rhode Island economy has been extremely slow to rebound from the Great Recession and was not all that great before that either. The ruling class has a plan to fix it. It is the same plan they have had for 40 years, give more money to the rich, pretend real estate speculation is economic development, talk about the fad of the week, and try to lure some of the faddists down from Boston. While it has made the rich richer, for the rest of us it has been not so good, we have gotten poorer and the services we rely upon have been underfunded. The updated traditional model does have a few good ideas. Not al the fads are horrible, None are panaceas, But most of us can agree that fix schools, go Green, provide lifelong learning for people so they can change with the changing world, and generally have an efficient system for administering the rules and regulations that protect the public and the environment are a good idea. But most of what comes out of Smith Hill, City Halls, and the Chamber of Commerce, not to mention the dark money foundations funded by billionaires, is exactly what has gotten us into this mess, and doubling down will only make it worse.


Every politician talks about the public private partnership of development and every real estate speculator has their hand out for government largesse, but at the same time we are told of the supremacy of the market. It is therefore extremely important to clarify what the role of government in the economic development process ought to be. While the market purists insist that the only thing government should do is get out of the way, the role of government is critical If nothing else, guaranteeing weights and measures and policing markets all require government. We could create money without the government, essentially that has already been turned over to the banks, but ultimately governments are responsible for a valued currency. What about basic infrastructure? How do we decide to fund airports that are losing more passengers every month when buses serve more people every year and lose their funding?



But there is more to it. First and foremost may be all the research we the taxpayers funded in basic science and new technologies, research that underpins all of the fads of the week such as biotech, software, and energy. Governments either contract out or do on their own the building of weapons, and constructing civilian infrastructure such as roads, water supplies and sewers. And even in the places that claim to be the home of market purists cities and states offer real estate tax breaks, targeted job training, business education, and all manner of relocation subsidies. Can we begin to speak honestly about the role of government in the economy?



Occasionally a government actually practices democracy, invites the people to participate, and looks out for the good of the people instead of just the rich, but that is rare. But one could well make the case that in a democracy, in a society looking for widespread prosperity, that instead of helping the wealthy, communities and states, as well as the Federal government and global institutions like the World Bank, should target all of their assistance to those in the community with the least since the rich by definition do not need the help of the government. Part of the reason for this last suggestion is that we are more and more aware that rising inequality hurts economies and its flip side, when those with the least are prosperous, the entire community is prosperous.



Based on the knowledge that prosperity is actually a bottom up enterprise, in RI the entire economic development activity by the government should be directed into the communities with the least, our old water powered riverine towns and old industrial neighborhoods. RI was built around waterpower and our towns grew up around the rivers and shores. And poverty is clustered in the oldest industrial neighborhoods as they are where immigrants have always headed because of the jobs available there that did not require much English or reading. Of course 100 years ago the industries that made RI a 19th century economic powerhouse started to head for cheap labor neighborhoods with authoritarian governments. Now we mostly have abandoned mills and run down housing.



A key feature of our riverine neighborhoods in the 21st century is abandoned lands, brownfields is the term, some just filled with debris, some seriously toxic. I believe that how RI uses resources to improve prosperity in our old riverine and industrial areas, our Environmental Justice neighborhoods, is much more important for creating community prosperity than any of the shenanigans like tax breaks for corporations that the 1% buys from the legislature and zoning boards. If we do justice to our EJ communities, prosperity will come back to Rhode Island in ways we have not seen in 50 years. But it may not be based on the traditional growth model as that leads to both inequality and ecological collapse.
Economic development in low income neighborhoods has always been difficult. But there are successful models out there if we look. While the World Bank is a global institution, and has numerous detractors, it does have a long history of economic development efforts in low income community, and it uses many of the same tools government in Rhode Island uses to spur development.


I want to draw your attention to a particular study Managing Forest Resources for Sustainable Development: An Evaluation of World Bank Group Experience, . This is a study of World Bank economic development in tropical forests and what works or does not work there.

You might ask how what goes on in tropical forests relates to the problems of economic development in post industrial cities. The first part of the argument is that tropical rainforest communities are often the monetarily poorest communities in a country, even though the access to forest resources by the poor provides them better nutrition and food security than others in the country with a similar monetary income. . Often they are the most disempowered, disenfranchised, and marginalized people in a country. And often they are considered to be of a different ethnicity than the urbanites who run the government. Clearly that matches the profile of EJ communities.

”…….forests often have a combination of capturable wealth but poor, isolated, and powerless residents. Powerful interest groups can seize this wealth, depriving poor people of access to forest resources, and sometimes contributing to corruption and poor governance at the national level.


The reuse of brownfields in our current model has much in common with this situation. Brownfields are often the biggest chunk of land available for any economic activity (the most capturable resource) in EJ communities and their redevelopment by outsiders often leads to displacement for EJ communities . Often they are developed in a way that reduces government tax revenues due to sweetheart deals (very similar to the way warlords get forest removal concessions)Given all of the things that prevent equitable development in Rhode Island I offer here the quick and dirty summary of what the World Bank found to work best, improve the living standards of the community, increase the amount of tax revenue the government was able to collect from this economic activity, and maintain the health of the forest. You are more than welcome to read the original cited above.

1. Make sure the project has an ecological sustainability component based on real science and ecosystem health,

2. Include efforts to directly address poverty, especially addressing the needs of the poorest people and most disenfranchised in the community,

3. Put specific safeguards in place to make sure the capturable benefits stay in the community rather than end up in the hands of those who already have power and resources, This includes secure land tenure for forest dwelling communities.

4. Develop democratic processes and practices for directing investment, and

5. Specifically encourage and train communities to stand up for themselves, while setting up a structural framework of real democracy in the larger community.


I am not going to spend much verbiage here on the ecological component of economic development other than to use my favorite quote “You can not end poverty without healing ecosystems, you can not heal ecosystems without ending poverty.” In an age of climate change this becomes even more important. If you need more on this sources are available. Likewise, making sure resources do not leak out of the neighborhood and are specifically targeted to the poor and women is the only way to insure development actually does some good in the neighborhood and simple common sense.



We do need to talk about land tenure. It is only fair and right that people who have lived in a forest for generations, before such a thing as deeds came to the community, before national governments claiming ultimate ownership of land came into existence, should be secure in their tenure. It is their land. Yet the rich urbanites have always sought to displace them and steal the forest. But clearly right is on the side of the forest people. It is a bit different for the inhabitants of places like Olneyville. No one can say that the poor own the land. It has been bought and sold ever since it was stolen from the native people of RI, by both document and sword. After all,the Great Swamp Massacre is very similar to what Indonesia is doing to its forest people now.


The original developers of Olneyville and similar villages are long gone, and who is benefiting now from the reuse of brownfields is determined by who has lots of money. Not who lives in the neighborhood or what would do the community the most good. But allowing this kind of development based on gentrification and tax breaks for the rich has not lifted the people of Olneyville, nor has it done much for the overall level of prosperity in Providence or Rhode Island.. Mostly what it has done is displaced the poor and immigrants yet again. Whereas if the benefits and the investment stayed in the community directed towards the subsistence and economy of the poorest of the community, women, children, the displaced, then it would lift all boats instead of 1% of the boats as what is being offered to us now does.

The World Bank has figured out that forest communities need economic democracy, Communities do not choose to destroy their forest or their own livelihoods. They do not vote to exile themselves to shanty towns. It takes warlords and governments selling the land out from under the inhabitants to do that. They do not willingly allow the forest to be captured despite the violence the rich bring to the game Keeping the value generated in the community is anathema to the speculator class who assume they should be allowed to do anything they want with land and resources. But in Rhode Island time and again we find when the speculator class is not reined in, disaster strikes (Hello 38 Studios) The flip side of this is that when the community is very involved in the development process, not only with a voice, but a vote, Rhode Island ends up avoiding disasters (Goodbye Quonset Megaport) and we stop the sweetheart deals that undermine good governance. And sometimes when the community has its say we get good stuff like the new Providence zoning code.


The World Bank concluded that keeping the benefits and the land in the hands of the poor provides the biggest win, win, win, including ecological healing, community prosperity, and over the long term the overall health of the national economy, Rhode Island needs a new plan based on ecological healing and economic democracy, one based on making sure the benefits of redevelopment in our cities benefits the residents of the communities, not outsiders. More tax breaks to wealthy developers and corporations will never give us what we want. Undoing environmental regulations will undo economic progress and make dealing with climate change infinitely harder, as well as make flooding worse. Time for a new plan based on ecological healing and economic justice.

The cold spot

Simple physics.  Cold air flows into low spots.  it is heavier, denser, it sinks. This evening I walked into a little cold pocket, the kind that develop as evening falls and the wind is calm.  Standing on the edge of the basin, maybe eight feet above the wetland, it was still pretty warm.  Walking  into the basin about half way down there was a sudden shift to seriously cooler.  At the base the ground was cold, but when I reached my hand up as high as i could, it was warm.  Such a perfect illustration, and a wonder and surprise each and every time you walk through one on a summer’s evening. Surprising even 40 years after I first started exploring them on the road north from Stillwater.    And a summer joy to this day.

RI Economic Growth about at the national average

Release from the Bureau of Economic Analysis

For all the blather we hear about how RI is such a laggard economy, growth in RI matched the national average of 1.8% in 4th quarter 2013 and exceeded that in a number of states, including a number of states that supposedly have a good business climate, and exceeding that of Massachusetts.

Another nail in the coffin of the usefulness of the business climate.

What the BEA left out though is how much of that growth ended up in the hands of the 1% versus how much of it ended up in the hands of the 99%.  I am guessing that well over 90% ended up in the hands of the 1%, which essentially means there was no real growth for most of us, in RI or anywhere else.



The economic news August 2014

The economic news was all over the map this week. The number of jobs created was high for the fourth month in a row, but unemployment ticked up. I guess they have not yet run through the reserve army of the unemployed. Despite the number of jobs created wages were up only $.01, one penny per hour, Inflation is low, running only 2%, which is still faster than wages are rising, so people are feeling more squeezed. The adjusted economic growth rate was 4% after the shrinkage of the winter. Most of the growth was in the hands of the 1%, obvious when you think about the 1 cent an hour raise we got on average. Then the stock market went down 2 days in a row as the “good” economic news told the brokers that interest rates will rise until inflation does. They are wondering if the Federal Reserve can do its tweaking just right, which it never does.

The back story is that poverty is up, the rent is still too damn expensive for the wages we get, the climate is getting worse, the cracks in the empire are getting bigger, resource utilization continues to outpace the capacity of the earth to provide by a greater amount each year, and biodiversity, forests, fisheries, and soil are all crashing with the great extinction of the 20th Century ready to grow exponentially in the 21st. We are told that doing anything about the pollution and deforestation that is leading to climate collapse is bad for the 1% and therefore we have to invest ever more in fossil fuels despite solar and wind creating more capacity than fossil fuels each year and creating many more jobs per kilowatt hour.

The people who develop economic policy continue to read only 1/2 of the signs, and therefore continue to miss the boat. Rather than reversing ecological collapse by healing ecosystems and actually tackling inequality in the economy and all of the viscous cycles growing inequality sets up in the economy and our communities, we are told that cutting taxes for the rich comes before kids going to school with breakfast in the bellies and that teachers who can not teach hungry kids to pass culturally irrelevant standardized tests ought to be fired. We also see that despite the hosanna’s tossed at STEM and STEAM legislatures around the country are refusing to allow kids and government agencies to study climate change or evolution.

The power of the rich to destroy this country and the planet is quite large, but the resistance is growing daily. Just ask the pipeline companies. And then ask the government officials about the reports that New England could meet all of its energy needs without them through conservation and solar. Then ask them why they support the pipelines. They will say jobs. Then remind them that clean energy will create more jobs per installed unit of capacity that gas and see what they say to that. At that point they will tell us that exporting gas around the world will reduce fossil fuel carbon emissions. You then know they have lost their minds and that the new economic plan is going to have to be very different from the 1% oriented crap they have been trying to sell us for 40 years.

Fowler’s toad development 2014

Fowlers Toad Development 2014   Greg Gerritt


I do not know if I have learned more about Fowler’s Toad tadpoles or making videos since I started filming mating and tadpole season in Providence’s North Burial Ground. I do know that I know much more now than I did 18 months ago when the RI Rivers Council provided enough funding to purchase a used camera and pay a very small stipend that mostly went for other expenses for the project.


I break down the knowledge into 3 components. The more I pay attention to what the tadpoles are doing, both in the pond, and in reviewing what I have filmed the better I am in adapting my schedule to film them based on conditions at the pond and the developmental stages of the tadpoles. I am almost starting to think about doing some rigorous science to test hypotheses such as Fowler’s Toad tadpoles are colonial but have no recognition of other tadpoles as any different from other life forms in the pond.


The second component is how to use the camera and create the conditions for capturing high quality pictures that demonstrate those parts of the life cycle I wish to show. I now know much more about how light levels effect the camera and the quality of the pictures. Means I mostly film on sunny days, and calm is the best wind conditions for filming into the pond. But it also means that I am getting better at tracking swimming tadpoles, figuring out how what i see on the view screen transfers to the computer screen and Youtube and slowly understanding how to get the appropriate scenery shots for intros.


Finally I am learning the art of putting things together and thank Abe Vargas for a recent lesson that gave the work a big boost, tripling my editing capacity.




The video this essay accompanies is the first of a number of videos that will be made from the complete archive of Fowler’s Toad tadpole footage shot this year. I have hours of footage, most of which will never make it to the web, but a vast library for studying toads and for making a series of short videos for Youtube. This one focuses on physical development. When I first applied for funding for the project that was the goal. To document the physical development of tadpoles in the pond. I almost wanted to make a time lapse video, but the first year I had only wild shots and a few fuzzy captive shots and it would not work.


This year I pondered what kind of stage I needed to shoot on to keep the tadpoles happy and prevent them from constantly swimming out of view. Turned out a daily dose pill box worked very well. Still not good enough for a time lapse video like I saw on Walt Disney Sunday nights as a kid, but good enough for this year. I also wanted folks to have time for a second look at the little critters and pick out the changing anatomical features. I am also going to try it out with much shorter clips and see how that looks.


But documenting the physical changes is not enough for someone who was more interested in animal behavior than anatomy. Everyone knows I am no taxonomist, and some of my misidentifications have played out publicly as I crowd source identifications. Locomotion and social behavior will also be the subject of videos in the course of the fall, as well as other aspects of the micro ecosystem where the drama plays out. I also have a few ideas for a little tadpole humor that seem so appropriate for Youtube.


The issues of maintaining ecosystem health and biodiversity in our communities is intimately tied up with the long term prosperity of our communities. I am still working on how best to use these videos about a drainage swale in an urban cemetery in the community, so I am crowd sourcing again. If you have general or specific ideas of who should see this video please let me know and arrange a showing.

Greg Gerritt Watershed Steward Friends of the Moshassuck   Youtube Moshassuckcritters Blog FOTM website


Advice for candidates July 2014

My neighborhood hosted a candidates forum last night at the same time that we have a one man crime wave robbing houses in the neighborhood. The discussion started trending to what we might do to right the ship about crime, and I offered tax the rich and close the school to prison pipeline. Several folks liked it, so I offered what the candidates should have talked about last night. greg

From: Greg Gerritt <>
Date: Wed, 23 Jul 2014 15:20:50 -0400
To:  Summit Neighborhood <>
Subject: Re:

And none of the candidates were actually willing to talk about it last night. I have personally met with 4 of the 7 candidates we saw last night and spoken to those 4 about how the economy is not going to work in RI under the neoliberal model. I reminded them we have to directly address inequality, globalization/localization, climate change, ecological healing and food security if we are to create an economy that creates livelihoods in our communities in the 21st Century. All we were offered is more real estate speculation and meds and eds despite that real estate specualtion fosters inequality and is an easy way to crash the economy. And meds and eds are some of the leading causes of bankruptcies and debt and among the biggest stifflers of innovation.

As for regulation, the anti regulatory fervor is mostly around building in wetlands (very dumb when you are getting ever more damaging flooding over time) and allowing companies like GM that knows it has cars that are likely to have catastrophic failures and kill people to get off with a slap on the wrist because they keep so many palms greased.

City economies seem to unfortunately be dependent upon speculation. Therefore it is hard to move towards being more self sufficient with affordable farmland and housing, but that is where our future prosperity lies. Economic growth that actually reaches our neighborhoods has not happened for 40 years and is never coming back (121% of all the growth in income in 2011 went to 1% of the population, yes the rest of us got poorer desite economic growth being trumpeted). The thrashing around for growth (tax breaks which no self respecting capitalist would even ask for unless he were a simple rent seeker) that all of the candidates trumpeted last night is a recipe for disaster. Climatic and economic. Having met with 4 of them previously, and setting up a meeting with a 5th, I am not holding my breath that any candidates for office in RI this year understands that the military industrial complex is not a boon for RI, but a money pit that costs us both blood and treasure. So it might not be fair to believe that they would get how much inequality in an econmy grinds it to a halt in many of the same ways that ecological destruction does. But I will keep trying to educate them. greg

High Summer

High Summer is an old term.  I always take it to mean late July, early August when it is hot and the sun seems close to its zenith come midday.  The days have barely begun to shorten, gardens are starting to producer summer crops like tomatoes,  the eggs are hatched, the tadpoles turned to toads, the fledglings are finding their wings.


In the Seekonk River the bait fish have arrived in large numbers and the predators have followed.  There are always fish in the Seekonk, it is a tidal brackish river with a fringing marsh and some forest along its shores. The northernmost extension of Narragansett Bay, its northern terminus the falls of the Blackstone in downtown Pawtucket, its mouth where it joins the Providence River between Fox and Bullocks points. But while there are always fish,  finding them is usually quite a feat.  The only reliable sightings are of the smallest bait fish on warm still days right along the shore.  But come high summer the feeding frenzies become visible.


Sitting by the shore there were 10 to 15 reasonably large splashes every minute for more than a few minutes, interspersed with explosions of baitfish as they leap out of the water to escape the jaws of death.   I am not sure what the predator was today, probably bluefish, 6 or 8 inches long mostly from the splashes i saw.  Almost does not matter.  What matters is that the Seekonk is still alive enough to have feeding frenzies in high summer, and that is a very good thing.


Giving further testimony to the bounty of the day as I walked upstream along the western shore towards where i sat and watched the fish feast I saw 3 or 4 Great Blue Herons winging south.  Once I sat down to enjoy the fish and got situated I turned my scope to the eastern shore along the salt marsh just north of the Pawtucket/East Providence line below the mills.  On the eastern shore I saw one egret and an additional 8 Great Blue Herons, the most herons I have seen in one place it quite a while.


AHH Summer.



Report from a drainage swale

Report from a drainage swale. July 2014

Greg Gerritt Watershed Steward Friends of the Moshassuck


I am spending more and more time by a little drainage swale in the North Burial Ground. So much that my wife gave me a chocolate toad Valentine treat this year. And it will be in a video. Just below the maintenance building and sitting within a stones throw of I-95 this particular swale usually has water, but has been known to go dry at any season of the year if we go three or 4 weeks without rain. When I began spending time at the drainage swale I was focused on the life in the pond. I will return to that shortly, but this year an additional interest has been it’s functioning as a rainwater runoff catchment basin.

It turns out that our community is now ready, 17 years after we started talking about it, for a new way to manage rainwater. Doing it in ways that clean and recycle the water within the ecosystem is becoming the norm. Of special concern is what we do when the rainwater comes in the torrents that climate change is already bringing to us. The word is getting out about rainwater gardens, filtering systems to clean and infiltrate rainwater and never let it into the sewage system, such as the new installations at J. T. Owens Park and Providence College. What is so interesting about the NBG swale is that instead of filtering and draining it holds the water, and therefore has turned into some very interesting wildlife habitat. As Rhode Island looks to ever more Green Infrastructure I am going to push for at least some rainwater management efforts that increase wildlife habitat, especially for amphibians, among the most endangered taxa on Earth.


I visit the Burial Ground and the drainage swale in all seasons, and it is almost always an interesting place. But from May to July it is at its best. From the time the Toads and Tree Frogs start calling in the spring, May 10th in 2014, the first evening over 60 degrees, the place really perks up. The vegetation explodes with cattails shooting up and the pickerelweed starts covering more and more of the pond. Pickerelweed seems to retreat in the winter and then grow from runners spreading to cover the whole pond by late June. Then come their purple flowers that attract all kinds of insects and the aerial show of dragonflies and bees comes to town.


It was the Fowler’s Toad tadpoles that first caught my eye 5 years ago, I was walking along the shore looking for life and there they were. They have become a lodestone that draws me back for hours at a time in the late spring. Fowler’s Toads, Bufo fowleri is a grey mottled toad 2 or 3 inches long native to eastern North America, pretty similar to the American toad. I have only seen the adult toads 3 or 4 times, including once this spring sitting on the bottom of the pond, but I am quite familiar with very young toads and the tadpoles that precede them.


About 7 days after the first night of mating 1/8-inch long tadpoles appear. And with the same time lag new pulses of tadpoles followed each night of successful mating until there were at least 6 different age classes in the pond this spring, and even after the first newly transformed toads hopped away up the hill in late June there continued to be young tadpoles swimming about into mid July and new pulses of tiny toads.  Fowler’s Toad tadpoles are little black things that swim hither and yon in the pond, moving almost randomly, stopping frequently to eat. They land on vegetation and start scraping algae and bacteria off. I found out that the tail of a tadpole, in addition to being used for swimming, is mostly intestine for digesting the large quantities of low energy food that they feed on.


I tend to think of the tadpoles as colonial but not social. Often they clump together in large schools, grazing and resting, but they seem almost oblivious to each other, as the only interactions among them are when they accidentally bump into each other. In fact other than swimming and eating the most characteristic movement of a Fowler’s Toad tadpole is shaking vigorously, which appears to be their all purpose response to any irritation, whether it be human, insect, microscopic irritant, or another tadpole.


Over the course of 4 or 5 weeks the tadpoles grow to about 1 inch long, develop legs, shrink to ½ the size of the largest tadpoles as all the stored nutrients are transformed into legs, and hop away from the pond to feed on insects (hence no longer needing a massive intestine), and return the next spring for some very wild nighttime choruses. As this is a video project I have some video of the lights from cars and Benny’s on Branch Avenue as well as the moon, as the sights to accompany the walls of sound that that the toads and tree frogs make on warm spring nights.


Three years ago it became obvious to me that this was a great site for a video project, as you can stand on the edge of the pond and easily get very interesting and informative views and footage of tadpoles in their element in the early part of the season. I then sought out youth programs to see if there were any kids that could be attracted to the project. When no programs were able to get involved (a project that starts in the spring and continues into summer vacation is problematic and the Burial Ground is not really near any schools or child centers for convenient walking) I decided to do the videos myself and found support for equipment from the RI Rivers Council, whose support is greatly appreciated.


I have now being doing videos of the drainage swale and other life in the North Burial Ground for 18 months, beginning in January 2013. I have winter pictures including a frozen pond and snow, pictures of a chocolate Valentine’s toad in the snow proclaiming it is all about Toad Love, pictures of dry cracked mud in the summer, footage of vegetation, insects, Gray Tree Frogs, and fall leaves, but mostly video of Fowler’s Toad tadpoles. At the other pond in the Burial Ground I focus on birds turtles, and bullfrogs. I focus on the Toads primarily because they are easy to see in the pond and capture for close-ups, partly because the transformation from tadpole to toad fascinates me, and to be able to watch, record, and share it in detail is a treat.


Most of the in pond shots of tadpoles (and other pond creatures) are magnified, sometimes to 100 times, depending upon the brightness of the sun that day and the other conditions. And for many of the things I am capturing with the camera the best technique is to focus the camera on something interesting and then walk away and let the animals do their thing. In addition to capturing moments that I do not have the patience to observe in real time, the magnification allows everyone to see things that are so small that you cannot see them with the naked eye or even in the camera’s view screen. I see things when watching the dailies that I had no idea were there when I was filming.


This has given me insight into both what else lives in the pond (just wait until you see the dancing midge larva) and the behavior of the tadpoles. Without the camera I would never have been able to observe in detail how tadpoles eat, and I know that I never would have come to the conclusion that they are colonial but totally socially oblivious. Recently I have gotten into the habit of shooting some high magnification video of mudflats just to keep track of the tiny ones, though as the vegetation grows, the places one could do that are rapidly disappearing, and as of late June it is almost impossible to see into the pond, especially when the water is relatively low. At high water the swale extends to cover some of the mowed grass that normally surrounds it, and the visibility of the tadpoles in those sections is very good.


Last year was the first year of the video project, and for me the first time I had ever used a video camera. When I started I had no idea how to connect the camera to the computer and use the program to edit the movies. I am still learning how to edit and just recently I learned to do sound editing, music and voice-overs, something I am just beginning to put into Moshassuckcritters videos.


My goal all along has been to film all of the stages of development from mating to tadpoles to toads to returning to breed. Some stages are harder to capture than others, especially once they leave the pond, but I am developing a much larger library due to a focus on captive shots throughout the tadpole development cycle this year and a couple of days in mid June where the light and scene were excellent for capturing leg development in free swimming tadpoles and nearly every size tadpole imaginable were present in the pond and showed up in my net. To record leg development I net tadpoles, transfer into small pond water filled containers that are the right size to zoom in on so the tadpole is not constantly going out of the picture. My goal is 5 seconds of tadpole calmness for each videoed tadpole so leg size can be recorded. I expect as I go over 8 weeks of near daily video clips I shall be able to make a pretty good progression video for the development of Fowler’s toads in this particular place. Last year’s progression video was okay.  It was even entertaining considering I had almost no control over the audio except to use what was on the film or mute it and all the captions are paper signs I shot video of and edited in and only late in the season did I start capturing tadpoles for close-ups. We should know in a month or two whether I can put together a better quality and easier watching video that provide useful information for those who want to know more about tadpoles in the city and hold eyeballs. I have several stories to convey, feeding behavior, swimming, and developmental changes over the course of the spring, and will do several of the projects in varying length videos including some very short ones.


Another of my goals with this project has been to use it to promote knowledge of biodiversity in the city with the hope of attracting some of the next generation of environmental activists from urban neighborhoods to ground themselves in biology and the natural world so they are more prepared for the struggle. I have not really been successful in this endeavor beyond sharing my videos on YouTube. Hopefully as more and more work goes into urban biodiversity, and the quality of the videos improves, more folks will take advantage of the resource I am providing.


Video from the project is primarily available at with links at the Friends so the Moshassuck website and at the blog   where most of the various writing I do is posted and Moshassuckcritters videos appear.


Enough about the project, you can watch the videos. If anyone wants to join the project, happy to discuss it further. So here is what I now know about Fowler’s Toads and their development through the course of the spring.


Fowler Toad adults head to the water for breeding beginning in May. It appears that breeding season starts when temperatures after dark are above 60 degrees Fahrenheit. (16 degrees Celsius). The toads start calling after sunset, but do not reach full chorus until it is dark. This is what they sound like:


They mate on many different evenings, probably as often as conditions are right, but the population of adults at this particular pond is not very large. I could not make an exact count, maybe next year that is another thing to add to the list of things to record, but I figure there were at most about 10 or 20 Toads scattered about the shore. Even so, the chorus is hypnotic. The evenings of frolic produce thousands of tadpoles, with the numbers varying quite a bit from year to year. This year the numbers seem down a bit from the last two years, though the length of the breeding season may have produced more tadpoles than I realize. All I know is that I have video of thousands of tadpoles in the water at one time as I panned the pond in late May, and that I can only video a small portion of the pond.


Fowler’s toads have some flexibility. This year mating commenced on May 10 and continued well into June. Last year the pond was dry until May 25, at which point mating commenced, again with mating on a series of evenings. I do not know where the toads deposit their eggs.


Gray Tree Frogs share the drainage swale with the Toads. They commence mating season within days of the Toads, and after May 15 Tree Frog mating calls predominate my recordings. Tree frog tadpoles appear much later than Fowler’s toad tadpoles, and are much harder to observe. There are probably a variety of reasons for this, but the current hypothesis is that they stay deeper in the water than the Fowler’s Toads and only come near enough to shore to be seen or caught when the swale is at high water. Last year’s conditions seemed better for observing the Tree frogs and a 2013 video of them is available at



Toad tadpoles appear within 7 days of mating, This year I recorded them on May 17 and the first night of mating was May 10. I think that as the water warms up the eggs turn to tadpoles a bit faster, and I would not be surprised if late season tadpoles develop faster than early season tadpoles due to the warmer water keeping the metabolic fires running hotter and the greater availability of food.


The rear legs develop first and take a fair bit of time to grow to full size. Given all the different sizes I have recorded, and the length of the breeding season, I am guessing that legs begin to appear when they are two to three weeks old, but I have not done a detailed enough analysis of the progression I have recorded to make the case for sure. I may try to come up with a better methodology for this analysis next year even as I do more detailed analysis of this year’s film to see what I can learn.


Front legs start to appear after rear leg development is essentially complete. As the rear legs grow they are used in locomotion on the floor of the pond, but swimming continues to be dominated by tail-powered locomotion. I have not been able to garner a very good series of front leg growth pictures. I think a detailed look at all of my 4 legged tadpole pictures will give me a better sense of this, but my impression is that once the front legs start to appear they very quickly develop and grow out. At the 4 legged with tail stage the legs come to complement the tail in locomotion, especially on the pond bottom.


With 4 legs complete the tail shrinks rapidly and the toad becomes an air breather. They continue to be able to swim, remember the toad found on the bottom of the pond, and the large one I keep hearing jump but never catch a glimpse of, but now adopt the typical anuran hopping locomotion, which allows them to spend much more time on dry land chasing insects. They appear to hang around the pond for a day or so, getting their land legs. Then waves and waves of less than ½ inch toads start hopping up the hill and away from the pond.


As noted I have only seen adult toads away from the pond 3 or 4 times over the years, so I have no direct knowledge of their behavior, but Wikipedia says they burrow into the ground for the winter, and the Burial Ground has that easy digging sandy soil that makes for good toad habitat and easier digging for burials in the times people dug them with shovels.


Biologists in Rhode Island have informed me that Fowler’s Toads are rarely encountered in here. Gray Tree Frogs are more common. I was also told that neither Fowler’s Toads nor Gray Tree Frogs have been recorded in Providence for 100 years until my video record. This could be because neither are found elsewhere in the city (possible) or because the few folks who know where are not spreading that information. In any case I do not know of any other similar habitat in Providence.


I hope to continue this essay when I know more, but until then, thanks for reading and check out Moshassuckcritters on YouTube.

Thoughts on a drainage swale for the stormwater coalition

As some of you know I have a particular interest in a drainage swale in the North Burial Ground in Providence. It drains one small sector of the Burial Ground, essentially collecting road runoff from one part of one hill. It happens to hold water most of the time, going dry only occassionally. It ws dry last spring, filling on May 25 after a big rain and has had water in it pretty much ever since. Went dry the summer before for a few weeks as well. The last few weeks it has been shrinking, and my special concern is the Fowler’s Toad tadpoles that were in the swale. A population I have been studying and filming the past 2 years. My wife woudl tell you that this time of yer it seems I spend more time with the tadpoles than I do with her. Anyways, with the pond drying up slowly and the shoreline moving further and further away from where I can set up my camera without disturbing the muddy bottom, it was getting harder to conduct my video project and I was worried that the pond would go dry before the toads were launched. So I was praying fror rain.

With the rain Wednesday and Thursday I was hoping the pond would fill back up, a hard train is all it takes. So yesterday about 1 PM I went out to the swale. There is one inlet off the road, a sort of channeled drop off the road, feeding into a cat tail swamp (dry yesterday) and then making its way into what most would call a pond. At 1 PM despite two days of showers, it was clear that the water had not reached the pond. There were a few tiny pools in the access that had not filled yet. As I was watching and pondering it started to rain harder and slowly the flow off the road increased. It never rained really hard, but for the half hour I was able to devote to it it rained fairly steady, and the stream off the road kept getting wider. Soon the little pools along the access sluice were filled and overflowing into the marsh. I walked around the pond (takes literally 3 minutes) and noticed the uneven parts of the mudflats were turning into puddles, but it felt like the abundant organic matter under the cattails was still absorbing all the water. On my third trip around I saw a plume of silt coming out of the marsh, confirming the water was finally reaching the pond, and sure enough by my 4th trip around the water was starting to flow over the mudflats. I was able to get back last night several hours after the rain ended. The pond had come up considerably, though still ringed by 4 feet of mud. Warmer weather is on the way, but I am a bit more confident that the tadpoles will make it through this year.

For the work of the stormwater coalition it is a reminder of what kind of rains can bring us localized accumulations of water, and a reminder that we should be on the lookout for places where green stormwater infrastructure can provide habitat for the neglected creatures of our community.

For those of you who are interested there are a variety of videos available om Youtube that show these tadpoles and the pond they inhabit. Moshassuckcritters

I will also be leading a tour next Saturday June 14 at 9 AM showing off the forest restoration along the Moshassuck River and the wildlife of the burial ground, including the drainage swale and its tadpoles. For more info email me.

Greg Gerritt Friends of the Moshassuck

Letter on economics June 2014

The first section of the Sunday June 1 Providence Journal was filled with economic tales of woe. Wages have Flatilined, falling for many Rhode Islanders. At the same time pay for Corporate CEO’s is at an all time high compared to what everyone who works for them gets paid. And everyone is wondering why we can not get the Rhode Island economy to work well. I would suggest that instead of looking to give more to the 1%, that we focus our public policies on a better distribution of wealth, more ecological healing, food security and climate resilience. Current public policy suggests that real estate speculation is the main policy driver, with an ideological assault on regulation because we confuse building buildings on wetlands with economic development.

The way out of our dilemma is not corporate tax cuts, not the gutting of renewable energy standards, or the easing of water quality protections. The way forward begins with democracy, of reducing the power of money to control public policy, followed by community involvement in development decisions and a much stronger effort to make sure the benefits of brownfield reuse stays in the communities along the rivers rather than leaking to the other side of town.

Greg Gerritt

Real estate speculation undoes the economy

Response to an essay by Jim Russell


Until we stop confusing real estate speculation for economic development we shall continue to have too many people who can not afford a place to live. I do like Jim Russell’s point about neighborhoods with global versus neighborhoods with local economies. Unfortunately our governments only cater to the global neighborhoods.


As long as our expectation is that with each transaction the price of real estate is going to go up, we are never going to have affordable housing. Until we get used to real estate being priced lower in each transaction we are going to continue to chase our tail and never create a viable economy for a world going through climate change and in need of locally self reliant agriculture and food security. And the rent is still too damn high.

Response to pro jo series on the economy May 2014

Rhode Island will be unable to strengthen its middle class as long as it listens to the policy advocates for the 1%. As a close observer of the economic development process in Rhode Island and elsewhere, it is clear that those practicing economic development have an extraordinarily narrow view of development based on assumptions about planet Earth and Rhode Island that are no longer applicable.

Rhode Island is very unlikely to experience rapid economic growth. Our population is relatively stagnant, immigration and births roughly balancing deaths and emigration. Our infrastructure is old, we have not been a prime investment zone in 120 years. Climate change is going to make things quite interesting. Basing economic development plans on ever rising values of real estate creates the greater inequality that grinds down the economy even faster. The plan to give ever lower taxes to the rich does not work under these conditions. It lines the pockets of the wealthy as the rest of us get poorer.

Rhode Island is going to have to start its economic renaissance by accepting lower growth, sharing better, healing ecosystems, focusing on reducing our carbon footprint and increasing our food security. Free trade and a great business climate will not help communities in a low growth place. They increase inequality and speed up ecological damage.

Only an economy baed on ecological healing, economic justice, and economic democracy will bring prosperity to the communities most in need of it now.

Fowlers toad mating calls and note



May 11 2014

Last year I thought I figured out that the Fowler’s Toads start mating when he temperature at night reaches 60 degrees. This past week i started checking in the evening to see if mating season had begun, with no action earlier in the week as the temperatures in the evening were in the low 50’s. Last night it was warm enough for the first time, and as predicted the toads were calling.

The buzzes are the Fowler’s toads, but there are several other things calling that i could not see and could not identify. Anyone with knowledge of what else is calling, please let me know. Thanks.


Checked again on the evening of the 11th, Toads were calling, going to try to check when it gets cooler later in the week too.  See if I have the temperature thing down.


Prosperity Op-ed May 2014

I have seen a steady stream of words claiming that if Rhode Island would just do what the rich folks want us to do, everything would be okay. Rather than calling it doing the bidding of the 1% the think tanks give it a bit of a veneer and call it the business climate. Whatever you call it, the prescriptions called for by the propagandists for the ruling class are almost exactly the opposite of what Rhode Island needs to create prosperity. According to a variety of authors including the Business Curmudgeon and Kansas Inc, the Kansas state agency tasked with economic development, there is absolutely no evidence that undoing environmental regulations does anything useful for the economy, and cutting taxes has an effect so small that you probably would not notice. The Business Curmudgeon is very clear about how little value is generated by these reports


” In fact, we are reluctant to touch any state or city business climate studies–although we will. With very few exceptions, most should never be read. Period! Most rankings are little more than bullets fired at an enemy–and like all bullets, they should be dodged. Most indexes and rankings will decide for you what is valued in a business climate and toss out all the rest. … in the process the reader becomes cannon fodder in the polarization of America. If nobody read this stuff, it might eventually go away. – See more at: ”


On the other hand there is an abundance of evidence linking strong regulatory climates with healthier economies beginning with Stephen Meyers classic 1991 study. The innovation generated by the need to clean up, combined with efficiencies generated by not throwing things away, has had a huge positive effect on many bottom lines even before we discuss the economics of the health and well being benefits that strong regulations bring. A number of studies have shown that the various sections of the Clean Air Act provide economic benefits ranging from 4 to 1 to 40 to 1 more than the costs of compliance in our communities.


Beyond bludgeoning us with the business climate, economic development efforts in Rhode Island are mostly misguided because they seek goals that do not match current conditions There is pretty good evidence that places like Rhode Island that saw their industrial development peaks more than 100 years ago, have sprawled away from urbanism, and have few natural resources that can be mined or drilled for have a long term drop in growth rates that are not amenable to reversal by business climate methodology. The more Rhode Island thrashes around for growth by giving the rich the tax cuts and loose wetland regulations they want, the less likely we are to achieve community prosperity.


Understanding the slow growth environment we find ourselves in, and understanding that in order to achieve prosperity iRhode Island will need to heal ecosystems, reduce economic inequality ( the literature on how rising inequality undermines economies is growing rapidly) , reduce our use of fossil fuels, adapt to climate change and dramatically improve our food security, one has to wonder why so many in government and business continue to offer the same tired formula they have offered Rhode Island for 30 years, when all it has brought us are things like 38 Studios and nearly brought us a billion dollar debt for a white elephant container port in Quonset that was only averted when the people rose up to stop the elite from acting stupid with our money.


Clearly following the business climate think tanks prescriptions will prevent us from reducing inequality and getting ready for the changing climate, The World Bank has recently discovered that in low income communities making sure the fruits of development accrue to the community rather than get captured by outsiders, and practicing economic democracy, in which the community members have a voice and a vote in how money is invested in the community, is the only way to create the triple bottom line win-win-win our communities need.

Sustainable cities blog comment

I live in an old industrial city in a place where natural resource industries died even earlier than our industrial base. We were industrial based on water power, which started fading around 1890. We have high unemployment. As does every other place around that is not scarfing up resources faster and faster and polluting faster and faster. North Dakota and its boom towns based on climate destroying fossil fuel extraction comes to mind. The business class keeps telling us low taxes and little regualtion would be good for us, but we know better. Essentially we have to admit that we have reached the evolutionary point of a low growth economy, maybe even a shrinking economy. But that is so unamerican the rich can not comprehend it. So they thrash around, and increase the inequality in the economy while undoing what little environmental protections we have, thereby making our plight worse.


The more I study, the more obvious it becomes that economic devleopment has to be based on ecological healing and economic justice if it is to provide long term sustainability. It has to make sure the poor get the benefits and it has to be based on economic democracy. Developing the economuy for the 1% is what is killing the planet and our communities. And we need to acknowledge that unless we think we live on 4 planets, not just the earth, there is no way to keep growing the economy in the west if the poorer parts of the planet are to have anything.


Greg Gerritt Providence RI

The woodchuck


I saw the woodchuck several times over the course of a week before I was able to get a shot of it.  I think I posted about 10 seconds of muskrat shots last year, but that has been the only other possible mammal shots (except for humans) that I have posted. But with this woodchuck video I now have on Moshassuckcritters videos that focus on each of the major vertebrate classes.  Fish sex, probably due to the name, has been my most popular video so far,   The season has not yet started for tadpoles and frogs, but amphibians, especially the Fowler’s Toads, have been a primary focus.  Today’s woodchuck video is a bit chaotic because I was getting some very good turtle video and I went back to turtles when the woodchuck disappeared and then had to swing around to get more woodchuck pictures.  And I have a variety of bird videos posted.  Not bad for a little pond in the city.

Climate change testimony links

Representative Handy, I will present testimony today but I wanted to provide the commmittee with a few links that I may refer to when I speak today.  They relate to the effect of environmental regulations on the economy.  The track record is clear, strong environmental regulations and healthy ecosystems correlate with healthier economies, and there is no evidence what so ever that weakening environmental regulations in the name of economic growth does one whit of good, maybe increasing its contribution to GDP because of all the money spent fixing the damage but clearly effecting community prosperity.   In an effort to supoport the committees knowledge of climate change and the economy i offer these annotated links.
The seminal paper in the field is from 1991 by the late Dr Stephen Meyer who was at MIT .  Here is the second version of the paper that Meyers wrote.
Here is a quote:
“Perhaps more to the point those who live and work in states that have vigorously pursued environmental quality and are now contemplating rolling back environmental standards as a quick fix to jump-starting their economies out of recession should reconsider. Based on the evidence there is no reason to expect that loosening environmental standards will have any effect on the pace of state economic growth.”
I have searched the literature and there is no actual study that refutes this that I have been able to find over the last 20 years.  We get assertions by Koch Brother funded organizations like the RI Center for Freedom and Prosperity saying this is not true, but no actual studies.  And considering how the Koch brothers regularly deny about climate change, why would we expect the organizations that they fund to be any more honest about the business climate.
Another paper I wish to refer you to is by Kansas Inc.  Kansas Inc., is the state agency in Kansas that does the same sort of work as the RI Commerce Corporation, promote economic development.  Kansas is dominated by conservative politicians and Kansas Inc is far from a liberal stronghold.  I think you will find their analysis of the business climate and regulations on the economy rather telling.
The third paper I commend to the committee is by the Business Curmudgeon and is an analysis of a series of papers  including the Kansas Inc study on the effect of Business Climate on the economy.  Again you will note that there is no evidence that regulation such as proposed for plastic bags in Rhode Island harms the economy.  I actually think we could even get agreement after looking at the numbers that the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act have been a boon for our communities.
I hope the committee reads these papers and ponders them well.  These issues will not only come up as we ponder our efforts to avoid our slow moving disaster via climate change, but the mistaken belief that environmental regulation harms the economy permeates all of Smith Hill and the media.  It would be great if the committee truly informed itself rather than buying into the memes propagated by the wealthy.
I would be happy to discuss this further with any members of the committee separately or together.
Greg Gerritt
Providence RI


It ain’t bragging if its true

Walter Brennan on The Guns of Will Sonnett played a crusty old gun slinger with a signature line.  It ain’t bragging if its true.
Sometimes I think  about what i have done, and especially about where I have been right on policy issues, proven correct over time despite the castigation i received.
I will not take any credit for things like figuring out war is stupid and that American soldiers should not be used to police the world.  Nor for being the first Green party candidate for legislature in the US. I will not claim my actions made the difference in what happened.  I am just going to list a few issues that straddle the ecology/economy interface in which my unpopular stands were attacked by the mainstream, but my analysis has stood the test of time.
Clearcutting:  More than anyone else publicly talking about it I used the statistics to show that current (1990’s) forestry in Maine was completely unsustainable.  The paper companies tried to smear us, but they cut less wood today because the forest could not sustain the levels being cut.  And the amount of clearcutting has also greatly diminished.
Combined sewer overflows:  I wrestled quite a bit with the Narragansett Bay Commission over the design of the CSO project arguing they needed smaller scale community friendly ecological systems to deal with stormwater.  They wanted a tunnel.  At the last stakeholder meeting they came in with a modified proposal acknowledging the need for what is today called Green Infrastructure in the program.  Recently NBC called for a reconvening of the CSO stakeholders because they are realizing that they can not afford to do Phase 3 as planned and need to go to Green Infrastructure to make the program work. Sort of a different welcome ths time around as I sit as a stakeholder.
The Quonset Megaport:  If the con men trying to build the port had succeeded in getting RI to put up the money, it would have been about to open just as the Great Recession Hit.  I was also directly calling the deforestation in Indonesia a threat to RI if we worked to accommodate it.  The fight over palm oil today and its climate change and deforestation impacts makes my point well.
So here is my next stand:  Ignore my advice if it pleases you but consider my track record.   Getting the climate right is going to be MUCH more important for the health and PROSPERITY of RI Communities than getting the business climate right.  Following the business climate line and policy will lead to disaster, ecologically, economically, socially.  The things we do to build resilience and reduce carbon emissions, and the social policies around community involvement and democracy that must accompany and precede the shifts in economic activity are the way forward.

Mergansers in the Moshassuck Follow up

This morning going downtown I saw a female diving in the Moshassuck.  I was able to watch as it probed along the unevenness of the eroded wall in the river opposite the RISD dorm condos.  I watched two dives, thought I saw the bird swallow when it returned to the surface the first dive, but definitely saw it had something in its mouth, maybe 3 inches long that it had pulled from a crevice, and then swallow it when it surfaced the second time.  I am starting to see a pattern.  They hunt crevices.  They are not fast enough to swim things down in open water, the snatch in crevices where there is no where to go.  With the perfect beak for small places.  Long and very thin.   Not only brightened by the mergansers, brightened by the life that supports them in the river.



Mergansers in the Moshassuck

Often i write of Menhaden in the Moshassuck, but they are not due for a while.  But over the years late winter is often a time to see Mergansers in the Moshassuck.  Mergansers are large ducks that swim under water to catch their prey.  There are several kinds of Mergansers, but over the last few weeks there have been about 7 Common Mergansers in the river along Canal St in Providence.  Mergansers are striking birds, the males black and white with a red fish-grabbing bill.  The females have a gray body and a cinnamon head.


Seeing them consistently over a few weeks is treat enough, brightening every trip to and from downtown.  But the other day I got a special treat.  I watched one of the females diving down to the bottom and investigate rocks looking for food for a few seconds as i walked by.  You see them fly.  You see them  paddle on the surface, but rarely do you see them in the feeding zone.  You need shallow water and  an elevated perch.  Canal St fills the bill, so Mergansers join with the menhaden, eels, snapping turtles, cormorants, and blue crabs. The walk along Canal St offers a glimpse of their underwater lives that I do not get many other places.  That so much lives between the canal walls is a testament to the determination of life to pass along genes.  That I get to observe it and pass along the news is one of my joys.



Recent comments I made on nation of change

  • The Real Job Killers

    • ProsperityForRI     • a minute ago 

      We hear all the screaming about the business climate, but it is very clear that paying attention to what we need to do to adapt tothe climate changes coming, and reduce the greenhouse gas emissions to reduce the overall climate crisis is much more important in the long term for creating prosperity in our communities than doing what the rich tell us to do. You cannot end poverty without healing ecosystems, you can not heal ecosystems without ending poverty. and we can not do either if the rich keep their hands on the war machine.

  • Discussion on NationofChange

    Has the Left Surrendered? The Overdue Conversation We Need

    • ProsperityForRI     • 8 minutes ago 

      Yeah I guess I am not a liberal. I am not and have never been a Democrat. I am a proud member of the Green Party and know that Barack Obama has been just as bad for the planet and my community as we predicted he would be. I did not vote for him. I voted for Cynthia MicKinney in 2008 and Jill Stein in 2012. I collected hundreds of signatures both years to get them on the ballot in RI. War is wrong. The NSA needs to be closed. The wars of the empire ought to be outlawed and the perpetrators of them ought to be tried at the Hague. Economic growth is destroying the planet, and has become uneconomic growth. it lines the pockets of the rich and impoverishes post industrial communities. Loss of biodiversity and climate change are jointly an existential crisis for civilization and we are failing. Inequality and lack of democracy are holding back communities.

      The Democrats are so beholden to the rich that they support things like TPP. I do not even talk of Republicans as it is improper to talk about those with so little contact with reality.

      And rather than disappearing, the left is alive and well, just not in the two party system that has been more than ever captured by the rich. The young are organizing co-ops, starting organic community gardens, stopping gmos, mitigating climate change, all the things the liberals and the rich do not want on the agenda.

      My focuses on ecological healing, economic justice, and democracy as the road to community prosperity. Western economies have to shrink so that those elsewhere can rise to healthy levels. We need to figure out how to shrink in ways that helps communitiesw all over the world. Food security is the future of our economy, Right now I am trying to shift public debate towards the idea It is much more important to pay attention to the climate than the business climate if we want prosperity. But I have been at this since the first earth day, and defining the left by liberals and the Democratic Party makes less sense than ever.

  • Discussion on NationofChange

    North Carolina Blames Duke Energy Corporation for Toxic Coal Ash Spill

  • Discussion on NationofChange

    What if Americans Demanded the Ouster of this Government?

    • ProsperityForRI     • 3 days ago 

      We held a little demonstration against the TPP the other day in front of the federal courthouse. 20 people, mostly old. Department of Homeland Insecurity watched us the whole time. We did get a quote into the paper saying “obviously the threats to the US must be very small or the police ridiculously overstaffed if they have the time to spend an hour with people openly advocating non violence.”

  • Discussion on NationofChange

    Apocalypses Everywhere

    • ProsperityForRI     • 3 days ago 

      I mostly agree with Chernus, and while I am sometimes described as gleefully apocalyptic, I do my work as ProsperityForRI because I think an economy based on justice and ecological healing, which means a smaller economy, will be good for my community and the people who live here.

  • Discussion on NationofChange

    President Obama Pledges $2 Billion+ for Drought-Stricken California and U.S. Climate Resilience Fund

  • Discussion on WPRI

    Protest demands end to govt. spying

    • ProsperityForRI     • 18 days ago 

      it is most clear that NSA spying is not compatible with democratic governance. Abolish the NSA and actually practice peace.

  • Discussion on NationofChange

    Weak Job Growth, but Declining Unemployment Give Mixed Picture in January

    • ProsperityForRI     • 18 days ago 

      What we are seeing is trying to follow the dictates of the business climate. what the economy really needs is to pay attention to the real climate and doing the things we ought to do to make the no carbon transition. That would bring community prosperity whereas the current system brings us nothing but inequality and environmental destruction.

  • Discussion on NationofChange

    Island In Scotland to be First 100% Self-Sustaining Place on Earth

    • ProsperityForRI     • 18 days ago 

      I doubt the island is truly sustainable, but what I like is the realization that democracy is a critical factor in creating economies that work for communities on planet Earth.

  • Discussion on NationofChange

    Why the Lousy Jobs Report Boosted Wall Street

    • ProsperityForRI     • 20 days ago 

      Growth is hallucinatory on a planet with such damaged ecosystems. Constanza, Daly, and others continually point out that we need to use less and share more, not expect more. Post industrial economies are going to grow very slowly if at all, and wages are falling, The need to pay off interest keeps them burning with uneconomic growth that costs more than it provides, especially as technology makes more of us obsolete. Food security needs to a big part of our strategy.

  • Discussion on NationofChange

    The Global Elite is Insane

    • ProsperityForRI     • 23 days ago 

      I like defining the rich as insane. i doubt it actually helps us undo the crap they offer, but it does define the problem well.

  • Discussion on NationofChange

    Land Conflict and Injustice Development in ‘New India’

    • ProsperityForRI     • a month ago 

      The displacement of the forest people is going on everywhere, and given the health of the planet, it is the stupidest thing now being done on planet earth with the possible exception of fracking.

  • Discussion on AlterNet

    12 Biggest Right-Wing Lies About America

    • ProsperityForRI     • a year ago 

      Unfortunately even the article, which shoots up the stupid republican tricks, is wrong because it expects economic growth, which is basically impossible under conditions of ecological collapse

  • Discussion on AlterNet

    Why Do Americans Keep Getting Suckered By Right-Wing Lies? | Tea Party and the Right | AlterNet

    • ProsperityForRI     • 3 years ago 

      I spend most of my efforts trying to convince the people practicing economic development in my community that their economic plans are not going to work, and that only a radically green approach will do. Every day i get a bit more traction. I call it viral marketing. I am infecting my community. We can do this, but the Democrats never will figure it out.

Preview of Climate, Business Climate and Prosperity essay

Greg Gerritt Feb 7, 2014
I am researching and writing an essay tentatively entitled “Climate, Business Climate and Prosperity in Rhode Island”. Finishing it will take months, but the radio silence was getting to me.  Hence this very abbreviated undocumented version.  I am spending hours looking at references and figuring out how to say what each article says in 2 sentences that fit in with what else I have written.  Every day as I delve deeper I find more nuance but also more confirmation of the misdirection in economic policy globally, nationally, and in my community.  I am not alone in the struggle to change these policies.  Every day new centers of activism arise.  The specific mission of and the Catalyzing Prosperity project is to bring what we are learning about the economy/ecology interface globally to the policy discussions in Rhode Island,  The focus of the research and writing project is to counter-act the obsession with business climate and economic growth found among Rhode Island politicians and business leaders that continues to lead us nowhere.  The goal is more prosperous communities in Rhode Island.  This short paper simply states what is going on without the documentation and data that will be in the final paper.
The hypothesis being explored is that the current obsession with the business climate actually harms our communities.  There is very little evidence that following the prescriptions offered by the business climate indexers actually work even on their own terms, which is simply faster growth in GDP,  There is evidence that following the prescriptions harm economies and communities in an astounding variety of ways, and that if we actually did the math we would find our communities are becoming less prosperous in the old industrial west as the externalities catch up to us and the technological revolutions create economic bubbles that undermine economic security for our communities
The flip side of that is the things that we have to do to keep climate change to as small a number as possible and to mitigate and adapt to the harm already in the pipeline is both much more likely to benefit our communities economically than following the business climate route, and that what we should be doing to help our communities move forward is absolutely not the business climate prescription for governance.
Beyond the business think tanks obsession with low taxes it should be noted that much of the regulatory madness in America that in some ways infuriates all of us, not just the think tanks or business community, is primarily the result of shenanigans by the same forces that obsess on the business climate.  We all know the  American legislation process is like sausage making, full of deals and compromises.  That is politics. But the specific things the business lobbyists get into the legislation that they can not kill are often designed to make the laws harder to use effectively.  The lobbyists operate under the theory that if we can make it clunky maybe we can get it undone next year.  And if that fails, we cut the enforcement budget so folks have to wait a long time for permits.  Then we can blame it on bad regulations, rather than accepting that developers both wanted the regulations hard to interpret so they could fudge a lot of things, and then cut the budget for enforcement and permitting so they could use the slowness of the permitting process to undermine protection of the public interest in the pursuit of greater profits.
I underpin much of my work with the understanding that due to the ecological constraints of planet Earth further damage to the ecosystems of the planet are likely to have very serious negative consequences for most of humanity, and we have already reached the point where sinks are full and resource extraction is getting more difficult and expensive as we seek ever further and deeper in a desperate race for more stuff.  The reality is that yes we have more throughput, and many places around the world desperately need economic growth so that people can get enough to eat,  but in the USA 99% of the growth in income is going to 1% of the population, and it is all funny money from economic shenanigans or what Herman Daly refers to as uneconomic growth, which I define as an expansion of economic activity that in aggregate does more harm than good, ecologically, socially, politically, while reducing the need for labor with nearly all growth in wealth flowing to the 1% while the overall growth rate continues to drop as urbanization and deforestation reach natural limits and inequality slows the pseudo growth machine too.
I have friends who are practioners in the alternative energy industry saying let the market decide too, make it easier to do business.  Two problems, The fossil fuel lobby has more money and their subsidies include the military industrial complex that undergirds 1% power. Besides the Koch family is funding efforts around the country to make it harder to install solar and wind power. We need to change the conversation, not just have the market destroy communities and ecosystems slightly less swiftly.
Funny how it is exactly the family most responsible for climate denying propaganda in the world, people who detest real evidence and science, who are also key funders of the most outrageous business climate reports.  To me it is no surprise that the business climate reports are useless as policy prescriptions because the evidence they use is as thin as the science of climate deniers, and is paid for by the same ideologues.
Dealing with climate change is likely to be the most important thing people have to do for the next 100 years.  It is way too important to be left to the 1%, And since so much of what happens in our communities happens via economic activity, that economic activity is way too important to be left to the 1%.  The same people advocating for the Keystone XL pipeline are the same ones telling us to follow the business climate prescriptions.  No community input, no right to protest, no regulations, low taxes, military subsidies for the oil industry, lax regulations of chemicals, undo the clean water act.  Allow developers to build anywhere, and then keep flood insurance payments artificially low, allowing the tax payers to subsidize the gross abandonment of common sense.  That in a nutshell is the business climate prescription. Public loss, private profit and prevent dissension from getting out of hand.  The ideologues of the right detest the fact that helping our communities reduce the heat index and cope with the problems created by climate change will take strong regulation of fossil fuel emissions, promotion of alternative energy, a shrinking of the military, a reduced effort to go ever further and deeper to get fossil fuels, an understanding of limits, investment in communities, improving food security, and real democracy.  And they are willing to stop at nothing to maintain their power and privilege.
I read a world bank study on their forest lending programs.   Forest dwellers tend to be the most disenfranchised, disempowered and marginalized people in their countries.  Monetarily they are the poorest people, the least attached to the modern economy, though if left alone in the forest often they are more well nourished than tenant and small holder agriculturalists or slum dwellers in the cities.  As forests are among the most valuable resources on the planet, and one of the most critical for the development of urban economies, the powerful have been stealing forests forever.  I wrote an article analyzing the World Bank report
Here are some of the key findings I picked out
WB   2.79  page 56   The focus on engaging local resource users in decision-making is a vital element of resource management that holds potential for increasing synergy among  the three pillars. Increased local participation in environmental management is viewed as a means to eliminate inefficiency and corruption in administration of the forestry sector while enhancing equity in the distribution of economic benefits.
WB  2.82  page 57   Across the World Bank forest-related projects in the Sahel, the failure to explicitly address asymmetrical power relationships between decentralized bodies and forestry agents is likely to reduce the ability of local groups to actually exercise decision-making power in forest management.
WB  Page 100 The evolution of  the partnerships towards holistic landscape-level approaches that combine forest conservation and SFM with climate change mitigation and adaptation, improved food security and climate smart agricultural development are important achievements. The Bank‘s efforts to integrate broader governance concerns and issues, including the efforts to protect and enhance the rights of indigenous forest-dependent communities, into these approaches are also recognized as important  achievements.
In plain English, following the dictates of the rich and powerful, allowing business as usual makes poverty worse, harms ecosystems, and undermines democracy ion forest communities and nations.  In Rhode Island it is not the residents of East Greenwich that need economic development, it is the people of our EJ communities, our communities full of Brownfields: Olneyville, Pawtucket, Central Falls, West Warwick.  Old industrial places that electric power grids and automobiles made obsolete.    The people of these communities are the disempowered, disenfranchised, marginalized people of Rhode Island.  I would argue that just as the World Bank found that only systematic efforts to neutralize the power of the 1% so that the community could make its own decisions lead to good economic outcomes (always linked to good ecological outcomes) for the people in the community.  In Rhode Island the same things apply.  And that dealing with climate change is the way forward if we use the tools available.
I can assert anything I want.  I have tried mightily in this short essay to avoid the details and footnotes, but ultimately a fully documented description is necessary to make a radical case break the log jam the powerful have put in our way,  And to weave all of the connections that are necessary to a full understanding of the problems and the way forward.     I hope to have it written by summer.  In the mean time send comments and questions.  greg


Capitalism and free markets are based on the idea that everyone will have perfect information. The GMO industry claims to be for free enterprise, but they seem to constantly violate the rule of perfect information for all consumers intentionally and deceptively. clearly they are nothing but thuggish rent seekers seeking subsidies by buying public officials.


Response to the BRWCT event

Yesterday I attended a statehouse presentation coordinated by the RI Bays, Rivers, and Watersheds Coordination Team reviewing the shoreline special area management plan, the Beach SAMP. This little commentary is primarily going to those who attended, and a few of my colleagues.  The speakers, primarily from government agencies, spoke on climate change induced sea level rise and what it means for Rhode Island.  All well and good, but it was infused with a great deal of magical thinking about keeping intact our shoreline communities with private control of access to the shore while expecting public subsidy in order to safely keep them there.  There was a stunned silence after I finished my question about magical thinking, though eventually the speaker representing the Real Estate industry mouthed some platitudes.
In this age of austerity, in an age of shrinking livelihoods for many Americans, in an age where the rich demand that we cut their taxes and kowtow to their every whim, while they suck up all the money and insist that free enterprise is the way to the future, we need to call out the hypocrisy of the owners of the shore line when they demand that we either publicly fund the infrastructure they need to maintain their houses and lifestyles and allow them to violate environmental rules and common sense, while they fund climate deniers and demand that the poor be abandoned.
The sea is coming.  The issue is not how long can we hold it back for the benefit of home owners, it is how do we adapt to rising sea levels and the slow disintegration of our economy as the climate creates disaster after disaster.  We can not allow rebuilding along the cost, we need to engineer a retreat while we create much larger coastal ecological buffers that will reduce our carbon footprint, and improve our feed security.
Recycling the materials in coastal properties, especially the copper, before it falls into the sea is much better for all of us than waiting for the next storm.  If the rich insist on waiting it out until the sea comes for them, they should pay the cost of their own stupidity and not expect the rest of us to rescue them and bail them out.
Greg Gerritt


Bugs in the Burial Ground 2013

This is the final video in my 2013 series.  I do not know what most of the critters in this video are. The beginning of the video captures images of critters I netted while seeking tadpoles in Providence’s  North Burial Ground drainage swale.  I have some of those same critters captured in pixels swimming around the swale in natural habitat.  The purple flowers are I believe arrow leaf.  They grow in the drainage swale, filling the pond in late June and making it impossible to film things swimming in the water after that.  The latter part of the video was filmed at the permanent pond in the burial ground.   greg

Turtles in Action


This video project is part of the evolving Wildlife of the North Burial Ground project of Friends of the Moshassuck funded by the Rhode Island Rivers Council.
There is one full time pond in the NBG.  When i first started paying attention about 5 years ago on the sunning log you would see up to 6 turtles at a time. This past summer there were 14 after several years of growing a bit each year.  Painted Turtles.  There is also a snapping turtle in the pond most of the time, but I rarely see it and have never captured it in pixels.
Turtles are but one attraction in the pond.  I have video of fish, insects, muskrats, various birds, and various life stages of the Bullfrog from the pond all posted on this channel.
Turtles are hard to film.  They ought to be relatively easy.  They are largish, relatively slow moving.  I am still learning to make videos and had great difficulty getting clear pictures.  Besides the murky water that makes in water shots difficult, on the sunning log the intense reflection from the low morning sun off of the shells and heads means i rarely get clear pictures or good color.  Hopefully I will figure out how to deal with that eventually as I learn how to use the camera better.  And learn how to edit.
There is only 1 log to sun on in the morning in the pond and when it gets crowded it is hard to find a place to climb on.  That provides the bulk of the  action in the video.  I do not think watching a turtle repeatedly try to climb out of the pond onto the log and keep falling back in can hold a viewers attention for very long, so i experimented with speeding it up on occasion.  I think if the camera man had a steadier hand it would work pretty well.  So watch for it in 2014 as the season progresses.  And enjoy my first years efforts here.
I think I now know much more about turtles than I did before I started this endeavor, but I suspect I will learn much more over the next few years of study.  Hopefully that too will inform future posts on this channel.


Birds of the North Burial Ground 2013

This video project is part of the evolving Wildlife of the North Burial Ground project of Friends of the Moshassuck funded by the Rhode Island Rivers Council. The project evolved out of observations of tadpoles in the drainage swale, but now will video any animal we can get on camera. Birds are hard to video for an amateur like me. I have not mastered panning with them smoothly or keeping them in focus. Not quite like bullfrogs sitting in the pond or the tadpole cities of the drainage swale where motion is not an issue. Hopefully the 2014 version will be better.

Bullfrogs in the NBG 2013

After several years of observations, with a little funding from the Rhode Island Rivers Council I began a video project to record wildlife in Providence’s North Burial Ground, with an emphasis on the tadpoles in a little drainage swale near the maintenance building.   The Misadventures of an Urban Naturalist tells some of that story. There is also a larger and permanent pond in the burial ground, and it may be the best wildlife watching place in all of Providence The Bullfrogs of the larger pond were always of interest, but in some ways I used them as a back up, something else to focus on in case the drainage swale went dry and produced no tadpoles.  As I noted above, the larger pond has an abundance of wildlife, 3 types of heron, ducks, geese, cormorants, kingfishers, and swifts, as well as songbirds in profusion, muskrats, occasional otters, a growing population (from 6 to 14 over the last few years)  of painted turtles, several varieties of fish, and bullfrogs.

The size of the pond, the inaccessibility of various parts of the shoreline, and the murkiness of the water means that unlike the drainage swale certain parts of the bullfrog life cycle are inaccessible.  The most obvious missing piece is that I have never seen, let alone filmed, the early stages of bullfrog tadpole life.  Fowler’s Toads and Gray Tree Frogs complete their breeding cycle in one season.  They mate, the eggs are laid, the tadpoles develop and the frogs and toads hop away from the pond between May and August.  Bullfrogs overwinter as tadpoles the first year.  Bullfrogs mate later in the season, so the tadpoles are in the water from July until the following July.  I have never seen the newly hatched  tadpoles in the late summer.  They do not appear to swim near the surface close to shore, so I have no idea where they are.
What I do see of tadpoles is the tadpoles that have overwintered in the pond beginning in May, once the water warms up.  They float near the surface, swim around,  jump out of the water, and are generally visible nearly every day.  What gets my attention is the jumping, and the video that accompanies this essay reflects that fascination with jumping tadpoles, including the use of slow motion so the motion can be seen a bit more clearly.
In the spring, in addition to the tadpoles, there are the frogs that have overwintered.  I have a collection of shots of the various frogs that have overwintered, the rogues gallery.  There is nothing systematic about these shots, I take them when I find a frog in range,.  I know there are not very many frogs in the pond in the spring, but it would take a much more scientific approach than I can muster to actually determine the population size.
The transformation from tadpole to frog in early July is fast.  I have found only one shot that shows a Bullfrog tadpole with legs, in contrast to the abundance of footage I have of Fowlers Toads and Gray Tree Frogs with legs,   It seems like one day there is an abundance of jumping and milling tadpoles, the next day there are no tadpoles, but the shoreline of the pond is covered in small frogs.  To give some sort of reckoning of the new abundance I came up with the idea of capturing on film how many take off when I go near them.  I have shots from 2 locations, in the northwest corner of the pond near the outflow and looking north from the peninsula/point in the center of the pond on the western shore.  Slow motion is again used to show more details.
After the new frogs show up the herons become more common (Green and Night as well as Great Blue) and the population slowly dwindles under the predation until they go to sleep for the winter in the bottom of the pond, waiting for spring and the chance to do it again.  I retreat into editing, waiting for spring and a chance to see the pageant of life played out in a pond again.

Rhode map commentary

Question on the Rhode map website:

What is your vision for a new approach to economic development in Rhode Island?

My Response:  only get 1000 characters
The most important thing is to understand current conditions.  And key conditions are climate change, growing injustice, and the end of economic growth for 99% of the population.  We have to throw out the business climate BS and realize that unless we directly address inequality the economy is going to continue to deteriorate.  Another study just came out pointing how rising inequality harms economies.  Even the pope can figure it out, why not Rhode Island?
And unless we heal our ecosystems, our communities will fail.  Climate change is about to drop us off a cliff, so what we need in that case is to stop using fossil fuels and start focusing on food security.  We need to rebuild forests, fisheries, and soils, which means compost and no more food scrap in the landfill.
We need to clearly remember that there is absolutely no correlation between a good business climate and a healthy economy.  As long as business interests reduce taxes on the rich, RI will never work.

The road to prosperity

Originally written as a letter to the editor December 18, 2013  Greg Gerritt

On December 18, 2013 in a remarkable juxtaposition the Providence Journal had an article “Analysts say income gap impedes growth”,  an op-ed by by Steven Frias “Warnings of RI Stagnation go way back”, and an op-ed by John J. Colby “Wage regulation okay for the well to do”.  Mr Frias repeats the tired old cliches about the business climate saying that the only way to move the RI economy forward is to cut taxes on the rich and remove regulations that protect the public health and the environment.  The problem with Mr Frias’s argument is that there is absolutely no correlation between a good business climate and a healthy economy, and that if Rhode Island obeyed the business climate shysters what we would end up doing is increasing inequality further, which even economists and the pope are starting to realize harms the economy, as well as destroying democracy.


Mr Colby points out just how inequality has harmed our economy, the poor are unable to be the consumers our consumerist economy seems to demand.  But considering the state of the Earth, and the likelihood that changes in the climate due to overconsumption are likely to overwhelm the effects of any boost the 1% will get from adopting the greed is good model, a model based on consumerism is unlikely to help our communities.  Even the World Bank knows that ecological healing and economic justice are likely to produce better economic results than anything else in marginalized communities.  Time for Rhode Island to learn that too.

Response to article on November Jobs report

This is actually the new normal. We are unlikely to ever see economic growth large enough to create lots of jobs as technology will destroy jobs faster than it creates them. American workers are going to see a reduction in per capita income as our national economy shrinks.

The real challenge is not to keep it growing, that is an ecological and social dead end, but to shrink it in a way that grows our Gross National Happiness. The way to do that is ecological healing, shrinking inequality, and focusing on community food security and climate resilience.

Comments on ESA article

Read an article on Endangered Species Act success.  Here is what I wrote in response:


Wish the Republicans could remember when they were a party of conservation and how much it benefits communities. The Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, The ESA, are some of the most important legislation Congress has ever passed, but every day they are under threat of repeal despite near unanimous support for them from the American public.

2013 BND sites in Rhode Island

The 17th Annual Buy Nothing Day Winter Coat Exchange

Friday November 29, 2013

If you have a coat to give, please drop it off.  If you need a coat, please pick one up.  

 Some see Buy Nothing Day as an escape from the marketing mind games and the frantic consumer binge that has come to characterize the holiday season.  Others use it to expose the environmental and ethical consequences of over-consumption.  In Rhode Island  as part of International Buy Nothing Day, we hold a winter coat exchange in various locations around the state, where people who can donate coats, do so, and people who need coats pick them up.. Volunteers are needed to help with this life-affirming event.

Locations in Rhode Island


Providence  State House Lawn  brick patio across from the mall 

Collection and give away   November 29 9 AM to 1 PM

Rain location  Gloria Dei Lutheran Church  15 Hayes Street  Providence

Contacts Greg Gerritt: 331-0529;;

Phil Edmonds: 461-3683;


Pawtucket –  175 Main St   Blackstone Valley Visitors Center

Coats accepted at the visitors center and many other locations in Pawtucket  all through November during business hours.

Collection at November Winters Farmers Markets Wednesday evening and Saturday morning at Hope Artiste Village

Coats given away Friday  Nov. 29  10AM  -2PM

Contact  Arthur Pitt ;     401-369-1918

East Providence  Bridgepoint    850 Waterman Ave

Coats collected and given away Friday November 29  9 AM to 1 PM 

Coats collected throughout November at various locations in East Providence and Seekonk including the Newman YMCA.

Contact  David or Lisa Spencer  401-965-9099

 Newport – St Paul’s Church 12 West Marlborough St.

Coats collected and given away 10 AM to Noon

Contact  Reverend Becky Baumann  Coats also available at other church events

Wakefield –St. Francis Church, 114 High Street,

Coats Collected and given away 10AM to noon

Contact   Tom Abbott   401-364-0778

East Greenwich      St. Luke’s Church, 99 Pierce Street, East Greenwich

Drop Off and Exchange 10 am – 2 pm    In downstairs cafeteria.

Contact:  Jean Ann Guliano, 401-323-5196,

Greater Providence YMCA’s sites

All sites collecting coats throughout November    Most sites distributing Coats on November 29   9 AM to 1 PM

East Side/Mount Hope

Drop off coats throughout November   Not a distribution site

Contact    Christy Clausen    401-521-0155


West Bay Family YMCA Branch

Collection and distribution site

Contact   Kaitlyn Rooney     401-295-6501

Cranston YMCA

Collection and distribution site

Contact   Mike Norklun     401-943-0444


Bayside YMCA

Collection and distribution site

Contact   Michael Squatrito    401-245-2444


Kent County YMCA

Collection and distribution site

Contact  Patricia Driscoll     401-828-0130



South County YMCA

Collection and distribution site

Contact    Melissa Bousquet   401-783-3900


Newman YMCA (Seekonk, MA)

Collection site only

Contact    Paula Roy  508-336-7103